Gah! I am so excited to blog this. I have wanted to go to Iceland for a while. When I saw low ticket prices pop up in March, I called my friend Kaitlyn who was totally on board and we jumped on them fast. We booked an Airbnb the next month, and the car the month after that. It was nice to spread out the expenses and plan it slowly. But truly, the flight snuck up on us fast.
We landed early on a Monday morning and immediately drove to the Blue Lagoon. This turned out to be a brilliant plan. We were the first ones in the parking lot, and got in RIGHT as the lagoon opened. The lagoon is pretty close to the airport so it makes sense to go there either on your first or last day, so you don’t just drive over there randomly.
when sun was just barely coming up through the clouds when we got there.
We got the Premium package which included a bunch of things like two drinks, an extra face mask, a bath robe & flip flops. We got to take the flip flops home with us which was excellent and the robe also came in handy when we ate at the the restaurant. Here is my friend Kaitlyn getting in the water for the first time. Needless to say, we were excited to be here.
They tell you to coat your hair in conditioner and leave it in there the whole time you are in the water. DO IT! They also warn you against getting it wet. The silica in the water dries it out. The edges of my hair that did get wet, were not fun the rest of the trip.
The sun was hiding when we were first in the water so everything was SUPER blue. Clearly I ignored some of the getting my hair wet tips for the picture.
We took plenty of pictures in the water since there wasn’t too much to DO. We got plenty of time to catch up and chat with each other.
The sun slowly started to come out but it was raining nearly the entire time we were in the water.
We did fun masks which were included in our package.
It was really gorgeous and relaxing. A perfect way to kick off a vacation.
The color is so cool! I can’t get over how the algae & minerals transform the water.
Here is a little cave you can hide out in.
Bridges on bridges on bridges.
All the people floating around with their masks.
The rain clearing up a bit.
And here I am enjoying the water. The lagoon is one of the 25 wonders of the world. I certainly don’t plan on this being my last time in these waters.
This is after we ate and were on our way out. You could walk around the exterior of the building and see pools interconnected.
The Geothermal plant in the distance.
I love how the edges of the lava stone bleaches out.
After the lagoon we went to our Airbnb and out for dinner in the city.
The next morning we got up early to hit the road. We got coffee and stopped at Hallgrímskirkja Church.
The church’s architecture looks like the basalt formations on the south side of the island that we saw later in the trip. The statue out front is Leif Erikson was made my Alexander Calder and gifted to Iceland from the US.
The church is just as beautiful inside. It’s minimal and fantastic. There is a large organ (the largest music instrument in Iceland, clearly) that is along the back wall.
The church’s ceiling creates brilliant shadows and it sits at the top of the city. We parked near it everyday because it was free and easy to find from wherever we were.
On the first day we drove the Golden Circle. We started in Hveragerði which is about 45 minutes outside of Reykjavík. Keep driving deeper into the area and you come to Reykjadalur Hot Springs.
I had really wanted to hike here, but we had to keep going. We tried coming back several times during the week to hike but it was rainy every other day. I am glad we still popped out to take pictures. The water here is WARM. You can hike up a hill and go swimming in the warm water. You can see in the hills the steam rising from the earth. And in the town, you can visit a small geothermal park.
We continued onward and stopped at an overlook of Ölfusá, Iceland’s largest river.
The sun let the hill’s glow brilliantly. The colors here are incredible.
After we came up to Kerið, a volcanic crater lake. You have to pay a small fee here, but you get to walk around the top of the whole thing and then down into the basin of the crater.
The water level fluctuates with the rain and the water is a deep aquamarine color. Unlike a lot of other areas, the dirt here is a vibrant red.
Here you can truly see the red in the soil. Moss kinda runs along the sides of the area and its not a hard walk to get down into it.
When we were driving away we stopped quick on a pull off to snap a picture of a horse! Their horses are pony sized and have a double coat to withstand the winters there.
I also got this awesome picture of the road. A lot of people pull off in areas where they shouldn’t. We stopped here on a REAL road to the side and then I wandered to snap this shot.
After lunch and a short drive we went to see Geysir geothermal field. There are lots of mud pools and small geysirs around this area. There is also food and a nice gift shop across from the field. Admission here is free.
So here is Geysir! This is THE geyser which all others are named for. It was the first geyser described in printed materials and is really big. It rarely explodes now but is pretty large. I stood on an awkward rock with help of my friend to get this photo. Otherwise you couldn’t quite grasp it’s size from just a flat on angle.
Here are some of the other surrounding labeled springs and pools. The Blesi had a strong blue color to it. And Little Geysir was constantly bubbling.
This is Strokkur. It’s about 60 meters south of the larger one. It erupts every few minutes. Everyone stands really close to it, but that didn’t give much perspective of its height. One time I stood downwind from it. Nobody was standing there because a huge cloud of sulfur mist wafted that way. But I snagged some good pictures as long as I ran quickly after it erupted. It was really cool to see it go off so frequently.
Then we went to Gullfoss, or Golden Falls. This waterfall is pretty impressive. There are different levels to it. It makes this sharp turn right after one of the steps before descending deeper.
You park pretty far and then walk along a path towards the falls (with TONS of other people). You will certainly get wet here from the mist of the falls.
The water picks up its color from the sediments in it. It is challenging up close for one to grasp the size and volume of this thing.
Here we are bundled as close as we could get to one part of the falls.
The sun broke through the clouds on the way back to the top of the falls. This is looking down the river with the mist filling the air.
Since the sun came out we got a glorious rainbow in arching the falls.
This happens frequently if the sun is at the right angle. In this shot you can see all the little people on the left standing by the water. That helps only a little big gauge the size of these Golden Falls.
To finish off the day we went to Þingvellir. The sun was just getting low again in the sky so we tried to get there quick to see it all, and believe me when I say there was a lot to see in this National Park.
Here is our little car that took us around the whole time. It looked like a perfect car ad in the fading sun.
When we first got there, we parked and walked up to Öxarárfoss. This waterfall runs over into Almannagjá canyon, the large fault line here. The canyon is moving apart slowly every year.
The park has lots of walkways so you can easily wander around. The valley below is beautiful and lies on the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Here is another shot of the falls. While it’s not the tallest falls, to be it was one of the most beautiful. I loved the rocks underneath and the blue coloring of the water.
This is the drowning pool, or Drekkingarhylur. There is a lot of history in this national park, and some of it can get grim. When parliament was established here, with it came legal punishment, sometimes in the form of drowning. There is plague here to those who were legally executed in the waters.
The park is a World Heritage site. There is Lögberg, or law rock somewhere in the park, but the exact location is unknown. This is the place where the speaker of the law spoke and people gathered together in the olden days. The first church was also built here, though the one above has been reconstructed through the years. Also in this park is The Silfra fissure. You can scuba dive here between the two tectonic plates. I wish we could have explored this area more, but am so thankful we stopped. It was a beautiful place to visit and a great end to our day.
The next day, we headed down to Southern Iceland along Route 1. The first place we stopped was Urridafoss. These pictures painfully do not do it justice.
The waterfall is right off the road, but many people don’t visit it. In fact, we were the ONLY two people here. It was huge and is the most voluminous waterfall in the country. They are thinking of installing a power plant here, and if the plans go through this falls will no longer be visible.
It was so windy when we were here that I couldn’t even talk to my friend Kaitlyn. She couldn’t hear a word I said so we rushed pretty quick back to the car.
Onward we went to the next falls of the day. People told us that when you saw a waterfall in the distance, simply turn at the next road. Boy, were they right. It was foggy, but you could see this sucker MILES away.
This is Seljalandsfoss. It was again so windy that it was hard to get a picture of the falls falling straight downwards. You can walk behind it in a small cave, but we didn’t simply because the wind was blowing the water STRAIGHT into it and it was COLD! You can see some folks walking behind the falls below.
We stayed out in front of it and still got plenty wet, not just from the drizzle around us but from the mist coming from the water.
Near Seljalandsfoss is another falls that doesn’t get visited often called Gljúfrabúi, which means “Dweller of the Gorge”. This waterfall is amazing and its a rush to see it. To get there you have to walk through a little passage between two rocks. The water where you walk can change in height depending on the time of year. When we went, we had on boots with waterproof tops and we stayed on rocks close to the surface so our feet didn’t get wet.
Here is the view inside. It’s magnificent and glorious and I can’t speak about this place enough. We were the only two people in the little cave looking at the falls which blows my mind because a few hundred yards away were hundreds of tourists at Seljalandsfoss. Now, you can’t get great photos inside of Gljúfrabúi, but its well worth going in just to breath in the water.
It is loud and you are surrounded with the water coming off the falls instantaneously. We actually visited it twice because we learned a thing or two the first time. You have to plan to get wet. It is inevitable. So the second time we went, we actually left our jackets and thick clothes in the car. It was chilly getting TO the falls, but then it was fine when we were sheltered in the rocks. We then could easily then remove our thin clothes and let them dry in the car. When we went in with jackets the first time, they stayed soaked ALL day. Here I am in leggings, boots & a t-shirt. And I am happy as a clam. I truly wasn’t THAT cold and we didn’t stay in too long. We did have a waterproof case on my cell phone to snap these too!
This is looking up in the falls. I mean, how beautiful is that?! The moss grows thick and the water just graces your skin. I felt really alive and energetic in a place with this kind of beauty.
After getting SOAKED, we headed to our fourth falls of the day, Skógafoss. This waterfall is located on what used to be a sea cliff. The water has now moved farther away, but the river here still flows off the cliffs and towards it three miles away.
This waterfall is one of the biggest in the country. We got there when it was raining so there weren’t many people around. We caught a small break in the rain actually before it picked up again. We were really lucky.
You can walk up a path to the top of the falls up the right side. Here, like so many of the others we saw, there was an incredible amount of wind and mist which soaked us. Other pictures online show a much smoother stream that I am sure exists on a calm day.
We followed the coast and went up a CRAZY curvy road to our next destination. For this, and for the first time on the trip, I wished we had had a better car with a little more power. The place we went to see is called Dyrhólaey arch,
You can walk out and see the lighthouse there too. The sea was incredibly turbulent and the clouds sank heavy on the sky.
The beach close to the cliffs is called Reynisfjara. Chances are if you have seen any photos of an Icelandic beach, it was this one.
The basaltic columns are the same that Hallgrímskirkja is supposed to mimic. They are stunning structures created by lava cooling near the sea.
The texture is amazing and was one of my favorite things on the entire trip.
The ocean here is really dangerous and its always soaking wet. The wind was truly strong and there are insane waves here. There are plenty of warning signs to stay out of the way of the water so you don’t get sucked in.
The next day we passed all the sights on the south side and continued onward past the city of Vik. We had lunch in the city and saw Víkurfjara beach. This black sand beach is different than the one we saw the day before. The other beach had lots of little rocks and pebbles and this was a fine thin sand.
We saw Laufskálavarða, this was once a farm that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption.
Now, its a bunch of little piles of lava stones that are called cairns.Travelers stack up the lava rocks when passing through so that their trips are favorable.
More random waterfalls on farms!
And then we came to a beautiful spot called Fjaðrárgljúfur. This is a massive canyon.
I really couldn’t believe the kind of place we were looking at here. They think the canyon formed from a glacier retreating 9,000 years ago.
There are just outs in the canyon wall along the top that get nice and sharp and skinny. You can see where some people walk out on these little cliffs.
I stuck nice and inside the thin little safety ropes. The way my car was waving on the road gave me no desire to crawl out on a death ledge.
While the canyon is high isn’t not super long. There are nice paths along the top edge.
Here I am cheesing out. I really was truly happy here especially because the wind and rain let up while we wandered the canyon.
The waterfall at the far end was obscured by the edge of the rocks but it ran bright white into the blue water.
When the water is lower (and it’s a bit warmer) you can walk along the bottom of the canyon. We saw two guys trying to walk around the bottom , but as they were wadding they were forced to stop.
When you are driving on Route 1, the earth turns soft and green outside the windows of the car. The Eldhraun lava fields were created in on of the deadliest volcanic eruptions. The moss has taken hundreds of years to grow and covers as far as the eye can see. It’s pretty impressive.
Along the road, there is so much to see. We took turns driving the car so we could each witness the beauty.
This is the edge of Sólheimajökull glacier which extends down from Mýrdalsjökull glacier. It’s a pretty easy drive to the edge of it.
We wanted to go on a hike the next day, but again was thwarted by the rain. Instead we headed to the Reykjanes peninsula. We stopped at Krýsuvík-Seltún geothermal park.
This area smells terrible but is an incredible site.
There are boardwalks leading you through bubbling pools and mud puddles. It looks so otherworldly here.
The colors are intense and there is steam rising from the ground everywhere.
To head back to the city you pass Kleifarvatn Lake. A few years ago, the water started disappearing and then filling back up.
The lake above is called Grænavatn, meaning green lake. It is a crater lake and the color of the water is from the sulphur content. We spent the rest of the night exploring Reykjavik. We got food, went shopping and saw plenty of stree art.
The fish was my favorite. It reminded me of a card I got my boyfriend last Valentine’s day.
The morning of our last day, we saw the Sun Voyager sculpture.
Then we went to Gamla Laugin, or the Secret Lagoon. A friend of mine passed information about this place along to me and I’m incredibly thankful.
It was another rainy day, but it really didn’t matter when you were in steamy water. This is the oldest natural swimming pool in iceland! There is a small geyser that goes off on the left side of the pool and to the right is a really hot one where they filter in some of the water.
This place was wonderful. There was a nice changing room and showers and simple stairs to get into the pool. There was a small snack bar, but I wish we had packed some food in the car. The pool can get busy in the afternoon, but since we arrived early, we had no crowds at all.
The sun came out in the evening, so we had a glorious sunset. We went to Perlan to see it at the viewing deck.
The deck goes all the way around the top dome so you get a 360 degree view.
It couldn’t have been a more perfect sunset for our final night.
These crazy dancing guys were outside. Seriously though, this sculputre is called Dansleikur made by Þorbjörg Guðrún Pálsdóttir.
Here we are at my final dinner with Kaitlyn!
And I had to post this: photos of my feet surrounded by all the different textures at the places we visited.
This trip was magnificent and I cannot wait to visit again. My hope is to go in August next time and stay in more places. It’s so hard to see the whole country in just a week!