Reykjavik & the Blue Lagoon

44843873_10102550404456293_1988663342306164736_n

Happy New Year! Hard to believe that it’s 2019 already – where does the time go?? It’s almost been THREE months since my trip to Iceland and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I just have one more post about that amazing little island that captured my heart in 2018, and I’ll be highlighting what we did in Reykjavik as well as talking about my experience at the Blue Lagoon.

Continue reading “Reykjavik & the Blue Lagoon”

Iceland’s Golden Circle

Iceland’s Golden Circle

If you’re looking for a short day trip from Reykjavik, the Golden Circle is probably your best bet, although we found it to be underwhelming compared to the rest of the country. Still, it’s a very popular route and much more touristy than the northern part of Iceland, so I would suggest getting out early to try to stay ahead of the tour buses.

The Golden Circle takes you through Þingvellir National Park and our first stop was at Almannagjá, where you can literally walk between two continents. North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet here, providing a one of a kind experience and unique landscape. For the really adventurous, you can snorkel between the continents at Silfra. Almannagjá is also a shooting location for Game of Thrones – you may recognize it as the path up to the Eyrie, as well as where Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane journeyed through the Riverlands.

44700947_10102547806557503_4261262007568695296_n

Further up the road is Iceland’s very own Old Faithful. Geysir erupts every 7 – 10 minutes and you can tell when she’s ready to blow by watching the giant bubbling center. Be sure not to stand too close though – the wind can blow the extremely hot water causing people to get burned.

43742116_10102550954633733_5640052273154359296_o

It was so cold at this stop and raining, so I didn’t get great pictures but I did get a fun video of the eruption. You could hear the people screaming in the background when it went off, haha.


From there, it was a short drive to Gullfoss, a stunning waterfall that is fed by Iceland´s second biggest glacier, the Langjökull. There are several different viewpoints for Gullfoss, with a couple taking you very close to the water where you will get wet!

44934570_10102550954693613_8670695013845303296_o

From there, we headed south to Kerid Crater, which seemed to be separate from the national park as there was an entrance fee. It’s definitely worth the stop, and the colors in and around the crater are beautiful. The rocks/soil is a bright red and the plant life surrounding the crater is a mossy green and the contrast is stunning with the blue lake in the middle.

You can also walk down to the bottom of the crater, although we didn’t do that either. I felt like the best view was from the top and the path that circles it. It’s believed that Kerid was once a volcano that caved in on itself, forming the crater that’s been left behind.

44901110_10102550958211563_5959461470470144000_o

One we left Kerid, it was time to head back to Reykjavik – the entire circle took us a good half day and on the way back, we stopped to chat with some friendly sheep hanging out next to the road.

44729772_10102547806283053_6920132134304743424_n

Here’s a map of the route we took – it’s a very easy drive on all paved roads and there are many restaurants and gift shops throughout the park. You should have no problems finding food, fuel and restrooms in this part of Iceland!

Capture

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

We had another long drive across the northern part of Iceland, so we were up and on our way toward the Snaefellsnes Peninsula right as the sun was coming up. About 30 minutes outside Akureyri, it started snowing! We were still in the mountains, so this made me a little nervous but it wasn’t a heavy snow and there were other vehicles out, so the road cleared pretty quickly.

A couple hours into the five hour drive, we stopped to see some traditional Icelandic turf houses in the tiny town of Glaumbaer.  People to lived in the Glaumbaer turf houses up until the late 1940s and the farm they sit on has been there since the year 874. There’s also a church on the grounds. It does cost to go in the turf houses, but you can still walk around the grounds for free. Tourist season runs through the end of October but you have to make a request in advance to tour them at that time of year, so no one was available to give us a tour. It was still worth a stop just to see a piece of Iceland’s history.

44948289_10102550957218553_7532129244151808000_o

The next stretch of road was pretty long but took us to the western part of Iceland, through more snow, mountains and even past a couple active volcanoes. We left the Ring Road for a bit to get to Grundarfjordur, our stop for the night.

The town itself doesn’t have much to offer as far as amenities but it’s only two hours from Reyjkavik so if you don’t do the entire Ring Road like we did, its definitely worth a day trip to see Kirkjufellsfoss, the most photographed sight in Iceland.

44506625_10102544766799203_6805988082718867456_n

Although you can’t tell from this picture, there were lots of people at this site and we had trouble finding a place to park along the side of the road. Huge bus loads of people were arriving the next day too, so if you want it to yourself, you might try to get there early. Game of Thrones fans will definitely want to visit Kirkjufellsfoss  – several scenes from “beyond the wall” were shot here.

We spent the night in  at a hostel and ended up cooking our dinner that night because food options are almost non-existent with the exception of the grocery store and a pizza place. The plan was to eat at a food truck but after being unable to locate it and finally asking about it, we were told the owner had already packed up for the season.

The next day, we headed back toward Reyjkavik, stopping at the Little Black Church and to snuggle up to some friendly Icelandic horses.

44687721_10102547806073473_8855365885880172544_n.jpg

A word of warning – our GPS tried to take us on a sketchy road to get to the Little Black Church. It was unpaved – at least the part we could see – and went up into the mountains. We were both uncertain about taking that way because neither of us wanted to have a flat, so we backtracked a little bit and went back the way we came into Grundarfjordur instead. It added a little bit of time, but not much and it just felt safer to us. Always trust your gut!

There’s a path from the Little Black Church that leads down to the sea and through a lava field. Short and unique hike and well worth an extra few minutes at the church if you need to stretch your legs.

44828023_10102547806163293_4797733075293306880_n

44859409_10102547806158303_2686689411596288000_n
There are quite a few other things you can do on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, but due to time constraints, we had to skip them. If you’re thinking of going, definitely look into Snæfellsjökull glacier, which is featured in the movie Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Here’s a map of our stops, including the Little Black Church, which we actually did on a different day but I included since it’s so close to Grundarfjordur.

Untitled

 

Northern Iceland & Akureyri

Northern Iceland & Akureyri

Traveling across Eastern Iceland and into Northern Iceland was such a unique visual experience. We left Seydisfjordur right as the sun was coming up and headed across the northern part of the country toward Iceland’s second largest city, Akureyri. The wind was very intense as we crossed mountains and just as you thought you might be headed out of a mountain range, the road would start to climb in elevation again.

It also looked very different from the rest of the country – for a few hours, I imagined we were on Mars. Snow covered peaks rose out of red rocks and at one point, we even drove through a sand storm. Right before our stop at Námafjall Hverir Viewpoint, we came across a young lady who was standing by the side of the road in the sandstorm. Since we hadn’t passed hardly any other cars on this part of our journey, we pulled over to make sure everything was all right and found out she was hitchhiking! Apparently this is very common in Iceland – the country is extremely safe with almost no crime. We weren’t going the right direction, so we left her and continued on to Namafjall Hverir.

If you’ve ever been to Yellowstone National Park, this stop will remind you a little bit of that. It was a very active geothermal area with bubbling mud pots and loud steam rising from the ground. It’s also extremely stinky and as you drive in the parking lot, the overwhelming smell of sulfuric rotten eggs hits you. The wind was also brutally cold and you could feel it pushing you through the muddy path between the pots. It’s very important not to stray from the marked path here as you could be critically burned by the hot water.

  44877917_10102550957423143_7818141720666701824_o   The Myvatn Nature Baths are nearby, which is Northern Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. It’s a bit cheaper than the more popular spot in south Iceland, but we didn’t stop at that one. We continued onward to Akureyri, discovering more waterfalls along the way. We arrived in the town a little after lunch time and were starving so we decided to eat before exploring the town.

44650972_10102544766649503_4508017477975801856_n

I had fish and chips at Akureyri Fish and Chips and it was delicious! Huge portions but no wifi if you’re on the hunt for that. Then we walked up the hill to the church to get a lovely view of the town. We also walked up and down the main shopping street, checking out some of the unique stores near our Air BnB.

44554511_10102544766639523_3638012852205256704_n

44929561_10102550955516963_7883483287228776448_o As I mentioned in a previous post, the food in Iceland is very expensive so to cut down on eating out costs, we hit up the grocery stores in most of the towns we stayed in for at least one meal. And also because it’s fun to see what’s sold in other countries.

We also discovered a shopping mall by accident and spend some time exploring that too. Toys R Us still exists in Iceland! I also had some ice cream which from a little shop next to the place we were staying and discovered they have some very odd flavors there. The lady working behind the counter recommended salt & pepper flavored ice cream but I passed on that and went with mango and mint instead.

Untitled