Iceland Day 4

fotorcreatedOur last day in Iceland was mainly made up of driving from Vik back to the airport, which wasn’t really a hardship as the scenery was awesome which made it even more enjoyable.

Vik has a small church on a hill above the town so we took a quick drive up to have a closer look. The sun was really low in the sky and the wind was blowing so it was pretty atmospheric.

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We then headed for the black sand beach – it’s a pretty awesome site being able to stand on a beach that has black sand, all because of the volcano’s! The strong winds of the day before had continued and it was almost difficult to stand up!

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Iceland Day 3

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We were up pretty early for us to take a quick last walk around the Geysir’s without the crowds. Being a free national site it’s open 24 hours day, there was only one other couple there taking pictures of Stokur. We wandered around and enjoyed the peacefulness, even managing to get a pretty good Geysir selfie!

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Our main stop for the morning was the Secret Lagoon. You may have noticed that so far we haven’t hit up the famous Blue Lagoon. This is because we decided to take a gamble and not visit, not because it’s expensive or touristy but more due to location and timings. We also wanted to be able to experience a more natural lagoon. On our way we stopped at a waterfall which I saw on Google Maps called Faxi.

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Again it was quite early and there were no other people around so it was really peaceful. We had a wander and took some pictures with all the camera equipment we had been carrying around. It was a good waterfall, not as impressive as Gulfoss the previous day but good nonetheless. I would definitely recommend stopping here if you have time on the Golden Circle route you’re taking.

The Golden Circle is probably the most famous tourist route in Iceland (for good reason) but it can be packed with people. If you book yourself on a tour then it’s normally done in one day which can be a tight squeeze on time. Personally I think 1.5 – 2 days is a much better pace. It gives you time to really spend time at each stop and allows you to discover hidden gems along the way!

We arrived at the Secret Lagoon at about 10:30am, we weren’t quite sure if it would be open as the information online was confusing but luckily for us it was. We rented towels and headed into the changing rooms to wash and get changed. Icelandic culture dictates that you should wash completely naked before entering the lagoon. It was very quiet which meant we had no problem following this rule even if it did feel a little strange!

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The lagoon itself was everything you want in a lagoon, warm, big enough to swim around in and set in a beautiful setting. The bottom of the lagoon wasn’t tiled or cement like you might expect but natural stone – I thought this was pretty cool! The geysir that creates the heat for the lagoon is situated in one corner and there is a boardwalk which you can walk along to get a closer view. The closer you got to the geysir in the water the hotter it gets!

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I could have spent all day there, it was super relaxing right up my street. A couple of hours after we got there a large bus of people turned up so we called it a day. If you are in this area please visit this wonderful lagoon, either along with the Blue Lagoon or instead of – its well worth it! I’ve read online that it can be busy from lunchtime until late afternoon so I would recommend getting there early or late as the atmosphere is much better without the crowds! I have added this to my list to revisit in the winter as I love the idea of star gazing in the warm water.

Our next stop after some lunch was Kerið Crater Lake. Previously an active volcano it’s no fallen in on itself and the crater has filled with water. It was VERY windy when we got here (and you had to pay to visit) so we didn’t stay too long. Stuart took a walk around the rim of the crater while I sat down and watched him. We also took a stroll down to the lake a the bottom, which was a bit hairy because there isn’t really a path down the final section. The pictures do it more justice then I can but there was a random bench positioned at the water’s edge which added some quirkiness.

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We had quite a long drive from here down to our final destination of Vik. A little out of the way and not normally visited as part of a short break in Iceland but I think it’s definitely doable and worth sacrificing a day in Reykjavik for!

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We made a few stops on the way, the first was Seljalandsfoss – a waterfall that you can actually walk behind! There were lots of tour buses parked in the car park but it wasn’t too busy and we still got to enjoy the wonderful site.

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We walked right up to and behind the waterfall trying hard not to slip into the icy water. It was coming down with some force and caused a lot of spray. The walk behind was quite precarious and I wouldn’t recommend it for children or anyone not stable on their own legs as it involved a scramble up some rocks to get up the other side.

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We decided to continue walking down the path towards some other sign posted waterfalls. We had heard from a work colleague and online that there was a hidden waterfall in the area. After walking for 5-10 minutes we can across just this place. There were two options for seeing the waterfall, one was climbing up a near vertical mound to look at it from above or balancing across some rocks in a river to inside the cave and see the waterfall from below. We chose this option, which turned out well for one of us.

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I thought I would go first and would be fine hopping from rock to rock not touching the ice cold water but no I slipped and dunked one of my feet up to my ankles in the freezing water. This didn’t dampen the experience as once we got into the cave it was pretty awesome. A waterfall plunging from high above into the cave causing spray to fly everywhere. If you go to Seljalandsfoss and you have time make sure you visit this place. Worth the 10 minute walk. Our pictures were rubbish as it’s hard to take them through the mist but you get the jist.

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Next up was a layby where you can see the infamous Eyjafjallajokull – the volcano that caused all the air travel disruption in 2010. What amazed me is that there is a glacier on top of the volcano and you can hike most of the way up! It was unfortunately hidden by clouds but it was still pretty cool to be able to be that close to it and the farm underneath.

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Our next and final waterfall of the day was Skogafoss about 20 minutes up the road. After a hot chocolate in the car (as it had got very cold and windy by this point) we walked up to the more typical style waterfall. I’ve seen lots of pictures online of people having their wedding photographs here and I can understand why as even in the grey it was pretty.

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There is a path that runs up the side of the waterfall to the top which Stuart wanted to “amble” up but I put my foot down in light of the weather and the steep steps. If we go back in the summer at any point then it would be good to see what’s on the other side!

We packed a huge amount into the day and it wasn’t over yet! We knew that tomorrow would mainly consist of driving so we I thought it would be a good idea to visit Dyrhólaey. The arch with a hole – a peninsula near Vik. It had an exciting drive through countryside and a road sandwiched by lake and sea. We then began, what can only be described as a nail biting off roading experience. One that the rental company would not have been pleased with.

Up a twisty turney pot-holded road to the very top. At this point the wind was so strong I thought we might get blown off the side! A quick walk to the lighthouse at the top and to the edge to see the famous rock formation was more than enough wind and danger for us both so we ran back to the car and drove back down. An exhilarating experience and not one I would particularly repeat.

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We finally made it to the hotel (which was very fancy and had an AMAZING shower) to rest up after an action packed day. Filled with nature and spectacular views it was by far my favourite day in this country of extremes.  

Iceland Day 2

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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  • 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.

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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. 

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

Iceland – Day 1

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Our trip to Iceland began with a early morning flight at 6:30am from London to Reykjavik. The flight takes around 3 hours which was enough time for a small nap and some reading. Our first views of this little island were just after 8am (local time) and it looked intriguing and unknown and I felt very excited!

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The trip was a birthday present to myself, as who doesn’t love being in a new place for your birthday! I was a little apprehensive when we arrived as I knew it meant driving a manual on the wrong side of the car. Something neither of us had done before, but to be honest it doesn’t take long to get used to and before we knew it we were off and away!

We hired our car from Thrifty cars based just outside the airport and was a cute white Ford Focus that had the best heated seats! These were definitely needed in the chilly Icelandic air!

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