Friday, November 8, 2013

Iceland Days 7 & 8: Golden Circle, Reykjavik, and Blue Lagoon

Day 1: Reykjavik
Day 2: Reykjavik
Day 2 Continued: Reykjadalur
Day 3: Snaefellsness
Day 4: Akureyri & Myvatn
Day 4 Continued: Myvatn & Dettifoss
Day 5: Northeast and East Iceland
Day 6: Vik to Reykjavik

Our last two days in Iceland were the least busy. We got up early on the 24th for a thirteen hour day trip with Sterna Travel, to Kerlingarfjoll and the Golden Circle. We were excited to see rhyolite mountains and walk on a glacier.

We piled in a van with a bunch of strangers, who were from all over the place. There was a family from Iceland, which struck me as a little odd - couldn't they see this stuff on their own? But they were super nice. One guy was from the United States and he was definitely not my favorite - he bragged that Iceland was country #45 on his list of places visited. It felt like the number mattered more to him than the actual experiences. Also, I was jealous.

First on our trip was a waterfall, tiny by Icelandic standards but pretty nonetheless.

We moved on to the splendor of Gulfoss, which was certainly beautiful; but lined as it was with ropes and concrete walkways, I longed for rough, wild Dettifoss.

Gorgeous Gullfoss, the "Golden Falls" of Iceland.

The we piled back in the bus and drove for what seemed like AGES. We only had a couple of stops, including this pile of rocks. Apparently you're supposed to throw a rock onto the pile, and if it sticks, you get a wish. If it doesn't, you get several years' bad luck.

Mine stuck, thank goodness.

We eventually made it to little Kerlingarfjoll Highlands resort, where we had lunch.

Lunch was a watery, tasteless cauliflower soup. There was no other option. Tyler and I were starving so we submitted to soup with piles and piles of buttered bread. That wasn't enough so we had to share a piece of apple cake, too. (Also I may have stolen half an uneaten waffle off a place on the busing table. It was going to go to waste! And it was delicious.)

Then we did a "hike" around one part of the mountain and glacier area. Essentially that meant walking up a little hill, posing for some pictures, walking back down the hill, walking up another little hill, et cetera. And the photo opportunities were fantastic...

I'd actually been worried that we were going to do some pretty strenuous hiking, and I ended up disappointed that we hadn't. There was also one part of the walk where we visited a little thermal stream, but only for a few minutes. I wanted so badly to strip off all my clothes and soak in it! But I wasn't given time.

Soon we were all packed back into the bus and headed back to the Golden Circle, a.k.a. Iceland's biggest tourist trap. Our first stop was the Haukadalur geothermal area.

We saw some nice hot pots and geysers and such, and Strokkur was indeed a lot of fun. So cool to see that big blue bubble and then GUSSSHHHHH.

Afterward, we had dinner in the convenience store across the street, and I bought a very sheepy wool blanket.

Then we went to Thingvellir National Park, the center of Icelandic viking culture, where you can walk in the valley between two tectonic plates.

It felt very Game of Thrones next to the huge wall of the North American Plate.
I bet a seasoned rock climber would've been itching to get to the top. So many great handholds!

We needed to touch the North American Plate. It made us feel fancy.

Thingvellir was beautiful and peaceful, and it felt very special to be there.

Unfortunately, after the freedom and wonder of the previous days, this tour turned out to be a disappointment. It probably would be great for someone who didn't have the time or energy to rent a car and find their own way, but we wished we'd just kept our car an extra day and done the drive by ourselves! We would have had more flexibility and we wouldn't have been held hostage to a tour bus for a whole day.

When we got back to Reykjavik, I was feeling homesick for the place already so I insisted that we walk around, with a pylsur to each hand.

Back at the apartment, we decided to take advantage of the nearest pool. Iceland has tons of public pools and they're incredibly inexpensive (compared to the pools at home) and amazing. The pool we visited had several different amenities - four different hot pots/tubs of varying temperatures; one huge swimming pool; and a sauna. I loved it all, especially the hottest hot pot. I also loved the locker room.

In Iceland, you are expected to strip totally naked and take a thorough shower before going in the pool; they consider anything less to be disgustingly unhygienic. As a mild germaphobe (and exhibitionist), I found this to be really appealing. Also, as an American, I'm used to girls being really body-phobic and self-conscious in locker rooms, so I was delighted when I saw a couple of young women completely starkers, treating it like it was no big deal - which it wasn't.

The same thing happened when we went to the Blue Lagoon the next day, our last in Iceland. You could tell who was from what country basically by what level of modesty they tried to exhibit. I doubt anyone could have guessed that I was an American, though, since I basically behaved like the proverbial Emperor in his new clothing, strutting unabashedly through the locker room. I love being naked!

Anyway, Blue Lagoon. It's the thing people tend to think about when they think about visiting Iceland and they have a pretty limited idea of what else you can do there. Which is to say it's a nice place and it does a very good job of marketing itself. I enjoyed my few hours there, but I might have preferred to be back in a thermal spring somewhere.

But in thermal springs you don't usually get to drink fruity wine coolers or slather white clay on your face, or see a bunch of French soccer players surreptitiously take their shorts off under the water, so I'd have to say it was worth the time to visit the Lagoon.

And then we got on a bus and got on a plane and left Iceland. But not without several of these:

Best candy in Iceland. Not a bit of licorice to be found.


  1. This blog is INCREDIBLE. You are AWESOME. I type IN CAPS when I'm EXCITED. My best friend and I are going to Iceland this May and are doing this same trip, in the opposite direction. EEEEeeEEEe. Thank you for all of this.

    1. Thank you for the sweet comment, Tiffany! I miss Iceland like crazy. You guys are going to have an AMAZING time. I hope you blog about it and that I get to read it!


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