Day 2 in Iceland was my 25th birthday! Luckily we didn’t have sore heads after the previous evening beer drinking so were up and ready to go. A little apprehensive as I had yet to really master driving a manual on the wrong side of the car but I was ready to give it a go!
The car was great and I fell in love with the heated seats! Plus the heated windscreen made de-icing much easier. Anyway, we set off and drove out of the city and into the wilderness. It doesn’t take long to feel like you’re miles and miles away from civilisation as it is right of Reykjavik’s door step.
After about an hour and a half we made it to Þhingviller National Park after a short stop at a lake on the way. I read a lot about the changeable conditions in Iceland so was expecting it but it really was crazy! From sun to fog back to sun within about 30 minutes!
Once we arrived at the national park we paid for a car park ticket which allowed us to park in any car park in the area for that day – handy! I did also have to pay to use the toilet but my goodness did it have a good view out of the window!
We then headed over to the beginning of the trail down to Law Rock. The area is filled with different routes you can follow and I could have easily seen us spending the whole day there.
The whole area has 2 unique selling points:
- Þingvellir is the home of the Icelandic parliament, the translation is “Parliament Plains”. The Alþing assembly was established in 930 (approx) and used the area as a meeting point. The Law Rock – Lögberg – is the central point and its here that the Law Speaker would recite the laws and new ones would be created. The parliament continued to convene here once a year until 1798.
The walk down to Law Rock is stunning and has some amazing views of point number 2. Although not used as an official area of government these days the atmosphere does give off that it’s somewhere important.
- Þingvellir is the home of the continental divide between the Eurasian and North American plates. Each year the gap grows pushing the two plates apart from each other. It’s quite impressive to be able to stand between two continental plates! Some of the fissures have been filled with ice cold clear water and some company’s offer snorkelling and scuba trips into the water.
We continued on past the divide and the Law Rock onto a small church which was very very picturesque. We were very lucky with the weather at this point which made the walk very pleasant.
Once we had finished wandering around and admiring the wonderful views and clear water we headed off for some lunch at the Visitor Centre down the road and then on to some amazing Ice Cream!
I had read on Trip Advisor and lots of travel blogs that Efstidalur Ice Cream Barn & Cafe was a must visit! Plus it was my birthday so in lieu of cake we had a huge cone of ice cream. They had loads of flavours, from your standard Strawberry and Chocolate to Liquorice. We decided on having two scoops but didn’t really realise that a scoop would be so HUGE! It didn’t matter though because the ice cream was so tasty we finished it all!
Our next stop was the amazing waterfall Gulfoss. On our way I spotted some wonderful Icelandic horses by the side of the road so we pulled over to take a closer look and take some pictures of these lovely creatures. The people of Iceland get very offended if you call the ponies as they aren’t, they are full grown horses, they just happen to be small!
When we reached Gulfoss the weather did turn a bit so it was a bit wet and windy. There was also a lot of people, I can’t imagine what it would have been like in the height of the tourist season. Despite this the falls were immense – powerful and beautiful. There is something about water thundering over the edge that I really love!
The sun did make an appearance which meant we got to see some rainbows as well! This didn’t help with the wind chill so after we had taken far too many photo’s and had a good look at the frothy water we retreated back to the car.
We had one last stop of the day which was luckily located opposite our hotel for the night. The first one named that’s caused them all to be referred to as Geysirs!!!! The Geysir area has 10 or so soldering pools of water ready to blow at any second. The big geysir called Geysir no longer erupts due to rubbish being thrown into it over the years which is sad and just goes to show why we should take care of the environment.
For regular eruptions and photo opportunities you have to check out Stokur which blows every 7-10 minutes. It is quite funny watching all the people standing round, camera’s poised, waiting for the inevitable explosion. Sometimes it would be huge going 15-20 meters in the air and sometimes it would barely throw water in the air. Each time the crowds would oohhh and ahhh only to be drowned out by the sound of the water.
We were both pretty tired by this point so retreated back to our hotel to chill out before heading out for dinner. Luckily the hotel had a restaurant a couple of minutes walk up the road so we didn’t have to go anywhere. The food was outstanding (which was lucky as it’s very true what they say about Icelandic prices and was probably the most expensive meal I’ve ever had!)
All the sights we had seen today where free, the only cost was the car park permit but that was minimal from what I can remember. I imagine you really could do Iceland on the cheap if you camped or camper van-ed round and ate from supermarkets. I really hope we can do this at some point as we only scratched the surface on this trip.
Tomorrow we head down to Vik and the black sand beaches via some spectacular roads and waterfalls!