May 6, 2016 Winter Adventure | Part Two | Iceland
This post is so overdue, I’m sure I’m not going to do it justice. The Ireland part of our trip was so much easier to do the post for because I wrote the text for it on the plane home. This one I procrastinated and procrastinated and now I’m writing from memory more than a month later. It’s so sad how our memories of amazing experiences escape us so quickly. I can tell people that I loved the trip to the Galapagos in 2014, and that it was life changing. But there’s no way I could remember the detail or do it justice the way I did when I wrote my post about it days after getting home. I often refer back to that post to remind me how it made me feel. I remember the experiences, I remember that it was incredible. But the exact feeling? It’s gone.
So this isn’t going to quite do it justice– But, here we go, I’ll give it a shot.
Iceland is like another planet. In the best possible way. I’ve been to other geologically young islands with very interesting unique landscapes, and Iceland was still so, so different. It was so fascinating seeing how quickly the landscape would change, and although it was pretty much always flat, the textures and colors changed almost as quickly as the weather. And yes, the weather changed very quickly. People joke that with the weather in Maryland, if you don’t like it, wait 5 minutes. Well, in Maryland that’s a bit of an exaggeration. In Iceland it’s 100% accurate. Seriously. 5 minutes, sometimes less, and it completely changes. You’ll see that quite a bit in the photos as I recap our 5 short days there.
We arrived in the afternoon on Monday, got our rental car, and headed right to the Blue Lagoon. We didn’t have a reservation so we didn’t get to go in, which was honestly fine, human soup isn’t really my style anyway, but we did get some photos of the area around it before heading to our AirBNB for the night.
We spent the afternoon/evening getting set up in our awesome apartment (seriously check out that link, it was the most adorable apartment and we loved it!), and exploring the area around the apartment.
The next morning we hopped in the car and headed out to explore the “Golden Circle”. The drive was so stunning, we stopped several times to take photos. The good news is that every few kilometers there were little rest areas where you could pull off to park, take photos, sit down at a picnic table, etc. They were very strategically placed. Well done, Iceland. Our first stop was the Gullfoss Waterfall – absolutely stunning and totally worth the stop. However, of course, when we were there it was SO cold and SO windy, we almost blew away. I wish I was exaggerating. Every single step we took, we’d get blown a good several inches sideways. The good news is that the wind was blowing away from the cliff’s edge, not towards it. But either way, it was very uncomfortable and really hard to stand still long enough to take a photo, so we weren’t there for very long. I took the following photo while holding onto a handrail with one hand, to keep me from blowing away, and my camera with the other.
We then tried to continue along the path to get a view from the other side. The path ended up getting really muddy and icy in parts and with the wind being as crazy as is was, we were scared of losing our footing and falling, so we ended up not going the whole way.
Before leaving, I noticed there were steps down to view the waterfall from a lower level. As we walked down the steps it got more and more comfortable, because the winds were blocked! Yes! It was still cold and windy but we could STAND. What a concept! Haha. We got some more photos and then we were off to our next stop of the day.
Our next stop was Geysir, which was pretty cool. The geyser erupts every 8-10 minutes, so we got to see it go off a few times. But there were so many people and it was so cold that after we got pictures of it we were pretty much ready to be done and move on.
This is the Strokkur geysir, the big one that goes off regularly. (There’s another big one that the area is named after, but it’s last eruption was a long time ago)
And this is Litli, isn’t he cute?
Honestly, the best part of this day wasn’t the touristy stops, but rather the drive and the sights along the way! This is a surprisingly short drive, everything was within an hour and a half of our apartment, which was in the heart of the city.
This was what much of the trip looked like :)
Our final stop for the day was to Þingvellir National Park. This is where the Eurasian and American tectonic plates meet. Pretty darn cool.
Our first of many rainbows for the trip.
The next morning we had sunshine! We headed back to Þingvellir, where we were to snorkel Silfra rift, between the tectonic plates. I stopped at many of the same places along the way to take photos because it looked so different with the sun out!
And then it was snorkel time! The water was just above freezing, and we were all decked out in our dry suits. It was surprisingly warm, other than on the hands and face. All of which went numb as soon as it hit the water, so it worked out fine. As cool as it was to snorkel between the plates, there wasn’t much to see, so it’s good that it was a pretty quick trip. Also, towards the end, the seal at my neck broke, and I got freezing water down my back. Good times. Still, really really glad we did this. It was SO cool!
We warmed up, dried off, and hopped in the car to drive to the other side of the island, a 7.5 hour drive. We hopped out after about 30 minutes to get this photo of a rainbow. Little did I know that it would be only one of about a dozen we saw during the drive. We stopped taking photos very soon after, and eventually lost count. It was so cool.
This was also the first day we saw anything resembling a sunset, and it was just stunning.
Of course, I totally regretted my choice to only bring one lens through much of the drive. The mountains were so large and beautiful and the photos made them look tiny because of the choice I made. Just more reason to go back another time :) Once the sun was down, the remaining 2ish hours of the drive was a little sketchy. There were no lights and often no people for extended periods of time. But eventually we made it to our accommodation for the night and got some good rest. I was hoping we’d be able to see the Northern Lights, since we had a pretty clear drive out, but as was the case with the rest of the trip, it got super cloudy that night… so no such luck.
As soon as we got up and started our day the next day, I understood why the Northern Lights weren’t happening the night before. It was foggy town. It’s crazy how dense the fog was.
We pulled over when I noticed the reindeer!! Again, totally regretting my choice to only bring a wide lens. They were SO cool!!
We made it to Jokusarlon, the glacier lagoon, and there were no glaciers in the lagoon! However, across the street on the black sand beach, there were some giant glaciers that had washed up on the shore. At this point it was POURING down rain and so bitterly cold, but we had to get out of the car and see it anyway. You can see the rain drops all over our coats!
I had my mom take this photo from her car window. The fog was so crazy.
We drove for a few hours before we made it to Vik. During that part of the drive, we drove through downpour, which gave way to an all out blizzard. Our little car wasn’t doing too hot on the slippery roads, but thankfully the snow only lasted about 15-20 minutes. By the time we made it to Vik and the Black Sand beach, it was pretty clear out.
We stopped for lunch real quick, and on our way out to the car, we were getting nailed with hail. We sat in the car for a few minutes before driving, and the hail got to be marble sized, if not bigger before letting up completely.
We got up to the little church on the hill in Vik, and the sun came out. Like I said before, the weather in Iceland is crazy.
We made one last quick stop on our way back to Reykjavik for our final night in Iceland, which was on the peninsula you can see in some of the photos from earlier at the black sand beach.
Our last night, we tried to go out and see the Northern Lights one last time, but the roads were so slippery with the snow that we ended up heading back pretty early on. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see them, but we’re determined to come back and try again another time!
Iceland was pretty amazing, and unlike any other place in the world. I hate being in cars for extended periods of time, but in Iceland I spent a solid 20+ hours in the car and the whole time the views were so interesting and beautiful that time flew by. Even driving back the 8ish hours from the east to the west, passing places we had seen the day before, the weather was so incredibly different, it added a different character entirely to familiar landscapes. I now understand why Iceland has become such a popular tourist destination. It’s magical. Words will never do it justice. If you can go, do it. You won’t regret it.