Iceland Adventures Part 1: Reykjavik and the Golden Circle

I’m back from my four-day trip to Iceland, and I’m already itching to book another cheap flight back to see all the things I didn’t get to see this time around.

Is this natural beauty even for real? Not the worst way to spend the last day in Iceland. #nofilter #iceland #instatravel

Iceland was a stunning country. Getting the chance to see all that raw, natural beauty is like something I will probably never see anywhere else in the world.

I figure the easiest way to recap this trip is to break it up into separate posts by day like I did for my Japan and Ireland trips.

So here’s how our first day went:

Meghan and I boarded our flight from Dulles around 8 p.m. Monday. According to our captain, the flight time was about 5 hours and 30 minutes. Iceland is four hours ahead of DC, so our flight was scheduled to land at 6:30 a.m. Iceland time, which is 2:30 a.m. DC time.

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Meghan and I knew we needed to try to get some sleep on the plane or else Tuesday in Iceland was going to be a struggle. Neither of us are very good plane sleepers, but we were hoping since we both had busy weekends that maybe we’d be able to catch some Zzzz.

No such luck.

In total I got maybe an hour of sleep on the plane, broken into 15- or 20-minute segments.

During one of my many periods of awakeness on the plane, I did get to see the Northern Lights outside the window, so that was at least pretty cool.

We landed early in Iceland, cleared customs in less than five minutes, did an outfit change in the airport bathrooms and hopped on the shuttle bus that would take us on the 45-minute ride from the airport into Reykjavik.

After dropping our luggage at our hotel, we set off to explore the city on foot.

It was still fairly early in the morning, so our first stop was the Harpa, the only thing in the city that seemed to open before 9 a.m. The Harpa is a really cool piece of architecture, that also happens to be the city’s opera hall.

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The Harpa sits right on the water, so after poking around inside the building, Meghan and I walked along the coastline.

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I couldn’t get over how you could basically be on the beach, but then just a little bit away were towering snow-capped mountains. I will never tire of the breath-taking scenery in Iceland.

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A bit up the road from the Harpa, we stopped to scope out the sculpture of the Sun Voyager. This boat-like sculpture was built to commemorative the 200th anniversary of the city of Reykjavik.

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We also strolled down one of the main drags in the city that took us to the Pond, where we admired the pretty colored houses and peeked inside city hall before making our way to the most adorable little bistro for a much needed caffeine break.

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After breakfast, we made our way back to our hotel to wait for the shuttle that would take us on our tour of the Golden Circle. We ended up booking two tours on this trip — the Golden Circle tour and a tour of the South Coast (more on that on Thursday).

We didn’t want to deal with the hassle of renting and trying to find a place to park a car in the city, so small bus tours were so much better for us on this trip.

The Golden Circle is one of the more famous things to do in Iceland because it features three of the big tourist attractions — Thingvellir National Park (where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are separating), Geysir and Gullfoss.

Our first stop of the trip was in the national park, where we got to stand right on the very end of the North American tectonic plate and look down into the gap where it continually moves away from the Eurasian plate. As the two plates move away from each other, the part in the middle sinks lower and lower into the ground. At some point this movement will eventually cause Iceland to split into two islands because the sinking part will drop below sea level.

We spent some time walking in one of the fissures caused by the shifting plates. If you’re a fan of the HBO show Game of Thrones, some of this may look familiar to you because it’s where they film all the scenes of the Wall/Castle Black.

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I had way too much fun with that concept while we were there and made Meghan take silly pictures of me trying to climb the wall like the wildlings.

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The national park was also home to Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries, and there are ruins of stone shelters still remaining.

Iceland Day One: Standing at the edge of the North American tectonic plate. #nofilter #instatravel #iceland

Our next stop was to visit Geysir — the first known geyser. It’s name is what all other geysers are named for (in case that wasn’t obvious). While Geysir is mainly dormant these days, we got to see a neighboring geyser erupt many times during our visit.

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We also got to see smaller geothermal pools that were routinely bubbling hot water in small amounts, but not erupting like the larger geysers.

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After watching the geysers for a bit, we headed just up the road to the Gullfoss waterfall. This massive waterfall drops 2,800 cubic feet of water per second down the 105 foot drop into the deep crevice.

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It was cold by the time we made it to Gullfoss and the wind throwing water spray in our faces wasn’t doing anything to help the situation, but man, the views were totally worth how much we froze while we were there.

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Our cell phone batteries also didn’t like this drop in temperature — dying pretty much immediately and forcing us to dig out our external chargers to bring them back to life. (Pro tip: Definitely pack a back-up charger and carry it with you everywhere you go in Iceland, you never know when the weather will turn and freeze your phone battery).

Once we’d seen the main sights of the Golden Circle, we started to make our way back to the city — though we made two small pit stops on the way.

First to visit with some Icelandic horses.

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These horses were adorable and friendly and loved when we fed them. They also had the thickest coats of fur I’ve ever seen on a horse to keep them warm through the very cold Icelandic winters.

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Our second stop was to a much smaller waterfall – Faxi. In comparison to all the other waterfalls we’d see on this trip, this one seemed so itty bitty.

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Meghan and I both nodded off a little bit on the drive back to the city. At this point we’d been awake for almost 36 hours straight, so the little bit of sleep we caught on the bus was so helpful.

We grabbed a quick dinner when we got back to the city and then immediately headed back to our hotel to pass out.

Tuesday’s FitBit Steps: 24,859. Miles: 10.5

And here’s the Snapchat story from day one:

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Comments

  1. Can’t wait to fly to Rekyavik (very hard to write) and kick off my new tour.
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