The overall experience was wonderful. My usual waitress was Lithuanian (second I’d met in Iceland) and happy to help and generally pretty bubbly. I was initially worried when the menu said only for tables of two or more, but it wasn’t a problem. Interesting the first few dishes were quite rapid in coming, but then there became long lapses between the mains (the fish and the lamb particularly). I had nowhere else to be, but I’d forgotten to bring a novel, due to a small handbag, and in the end, resorted to writing on my map!! Of course, like absolutely EVERYWHERE in Iceland, there was wifi, so I could also occasionally chat with people in Australia. Seems a bit vulgar, but I didn’t have company with me.
My final full day in Iceland was doing ‘the’ tour – the Golden circle. I think the golden comes from one of the waterfalls appearing golden in certain sun conditions – sunshine I didn’t witness! I have to say, I was at my limit to tours for this last one. Three full days and one half day had been fantastic, but I was a little over the piling in and out of a minibus! Say nothing for the weather being particularly unpleasant – a lot of wind, and intermittent rain (or water fall spray). I also didn’t ‘warm’ to my guide or bus mates as much as other days. Though… I saw my Day 1 guide in the power plant hahaha! Extreme Iceland tour buses were everywhere all the time, so I’m not at all surprised!
I took a TON of notes (on my iPhone) on this short stop – I’m clearly pretty interested in renewables, which figures with my work.
The place is pretty interesting, so I found a wiki link for you. I cannot fathom how in days gone by, they knew what days to gather… I mean, long nights and days of all sunlight must have made calendar usage a little more challenging, right?
This is the area where the two tectonic plates meet, and you can snorkel between them – in dry suits. There are people from previous tours who’d done it, and others who were signed up to do it. I think it sounds like MADNESS to get in that freezing water, but it looks utterly gorgeous, so I can see why! Interesting, this is something I didn’t read about prior to my trip, but the work counsellor mentioned it. He’s a smart fellow!
The trip has been fantastic. I’ll admit, last year’s Euro trip, whilst a bucket load warmer, wasn’t quite as enjoyable. I think the reasons this has been more successful is in part due to my home life being different, but also, I was much better planned. I booked things in, I felt like I used my time well. I have many clear memories in Russia and Romania of long lazy hours in the hotel rooms. I know I’m not a 4 full days in a row tour girl for Iceland, but I know a few here and there really contextualise the things I’m seeing. Of course the quality of the guide makes a HUGE difference, as does those you’re with – and those two factors are luck of the drawer! Hostels are great as a solo traveller as they are largely social – unless you a German Next Top Model… yeah, two rather anti social pretty girls for two nights in Iceland! Speaking of, I changed hostels after my overnight tour, as it was more cost effective, but thankfully (and unexpectedly) closer to town:
I was up at 2.15am to get a bus to the airport for a 5.55am flight to Frankfurt. At least it was light by about 3.30am, so that made it seem less strange…
If you wanted to do this tour, here’s the link, I highly recommend Extreme Iceland (even though they don’t pay me!)
I spent the morning doing (another!) volcanic caving tour (the other was here). I was immensely pleased it wasn’t the whole day, which gave me time to walk around ‘downtown’ Reykjavik. I headed for the famed church, and then just meandered around. I then started being strategic – next meal strategic! So I looked at a few menus and I think I have decided where I’ll have a degustation meal. I had a museli bar for dinner last night – I’m about contrasts!
So, after three solid days of tours, I finally have a less solidly booked day, and hopefully I can recall all the cool info I wish to impart of fearless readers!
Our two day tour had a geologist, which means we got the factually correct answer to many questions that had otherwise been poorly answered for others, on other tours. For example:
Why are the mountains flat? In most cases, because they were formed from lava flows, and like water, lava is a liquid, and forms a flat surface
Was Iceland always treeless? There’s varying answers, but it tends to be that there was trees when Vikings landed, and they called it Iceland to discourage others from visiting (and misdirecting them to the not so green Greenland. In any case, there’s a now lame jokes about forests… A small copse of trees: a forest! Also, if you’re lost in a forest in Iceland, what do you do? Stand up.
Breakfasts: boiled eggs are always cold. Pickled herring is common. Cheese and sliced meats are too. Liquid/pourable yogurt and Skyr is also popular
Our Scottish guide Holly Spice (what a name right?) was awesome. Great sense of humour, calling everything ‘the best in Iceland’ or the ‘best in the world’ with her tongue seriously in cheek! Her excitement was infectious – we drove through lava fields and she was just so bubbly and using the microphone to explain the changes in different fields!
Hot water: in Reykjavik, they pipe geothermally heated water to homes, so you have hot, then add cold (backward imo). Sadly, this doesn’t extend to the 120k people who live more remotely, so their electricity is subsidised to cover the costs of electric heating water. Nevertheless, 98% of electricity is renewable, so… it’s still good.
Geothermal water is OK to drink, but doesn’t taste great. It also has a smell, and I have noticed it in some showers. River water is fresh as you’ll get (ie I asked at one water fall’s food truck to refill my bottle – they only had boiling water, and not running cold water, so advised me to refill in the waterfall’s stream!). The glacial water is NOT for drinking, which you notice when you see it stagnate, and it’s a milky colour.
Glaciers: So glaciers are the formation of solid ice after the weight of compacted snow. They get so heavy, they push out the oxygen, which results in the blue tinge you see. The glaciers move – not the ice bergs, but the larger mass. They move over the earth, and so they crack and heave and move over obstacles. The glacier guide says week on week you see the differences in where ice forms have moved. In some cases you end up with moraines (French word, they were some of the initial glacial experts) which I think are mountains or ridges formed by the soil and debris being pushed aside. They often are at the ‘front’ of the glacier’s advance.
The wind got so intense on our drive back from the South Coast that we saw (but I didn’t photograph) water falls that were blowing UP! As in, wind was stronger than gravity pulling them down. It was mind blowing.
Farm animals: Iceland is known for their horses, which are small in stature, but mustn’t be called ponies! They graze outside year round. Cows and Sheep are brought into stables for the winter, and released for the short summer. We saw SO many lambs… so maybe that can be a sign it’s Spring, as the weather has been pretty brisk for a spring!
After a night in a quaint guest house, we hit the ground running in the Southern side of Iceland. The grand plan was a glacial hike, but first we returned to the glacial lagoon (some of the group booked a boat tour); then we went to another glacial lagoon where you can also see the glacial ice clearer. Then we headed to the glacier to hike – I was nervous as heck I wouldn’t be fit enough but it was A OK. Not too much of a climb (or at least gentle enough!). Then we raced the wind storm back, and won (I think!?) to Reykjavik. Of course, it was something like 8.30pm when I checked into my new hostel, but it’s bright so it’s hard to notice the time! I need food. A shower. A load of washing. And… Instead I’m charging devices and uploading photos.
I wasn’t actually cold at all – between wind proof pants with leggings underneath, and a 11 year old Land’s End jacket rated to 35C, I was toasty warm, so much so, I unzipped on my way down when there was no wind or rain 🙂 It was a long drive back to the capital, but we have wifi on all the minibuses (and I have a charging block – looks like a stone… the ones I’ve seen all over Iceland!). The bus trip home was filled with spotify music, uploading to Facebook and chatting online. It was quite lovely – given it was blustery and rainy a large portion of the drive home.
Despite spending the better part of the day sitting in lovely coaches and mini buses, it takes it outta of you! Say nothing for eating service (gas) station food mostly! So another photo heavy post. Some day, I may come back and spell the heck out of Icelandic to help y’all!
We are staying in a guest house, and it was WONDERFUL to get a hot meal. I’d just subsisted the past nights, with a cold noodle salad. The price was eye watering, but thankfully a huge serve (even the Americans thought so!).
Today was the first day of a suite of tours I’m taking in Iceland. And I’m exhausted – I was picked up at 9am, and returned around 7.30pm I think? I took a bucket load of photos, which I’ll upload here…
The guide told us anything and everything we might want to know. He grew up here for 34 years. He said the ocean is a blessing and a curse – they live so much off the ocean, in terms of food as much as trade. But it’s a vicious beast as the weather can turn very quickly in Iceland. He spoke of once, two boats going missing. Eleven people is a lot to lose from a village of 1000!
The population is 330,000 in all of Iceland and 210,000 in Reykvjaik. The weather is a reason why churches are plentiful – who wants a long travel in the dead of winter?
The tour was called ‘Centre of the Earth’ due to the chance to enter some lava caves or tubes. Yes, this was the inspiration of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which I’ve not read, and now feel I probably should! The metal enclosure is the entry via a spiral stairway. Other than some stairways and boardwalks, there’s no lighting – it’s all a handheld torch. At one stage, we turned them all off, and listened to the silence. It wasn’t actually silent – there’s a constant sounds of dripping. There’s no wildlife inside the cave – I didn’t notice, but someone thought to ask.
I wish I had steam left to post more, but I am exhausted (again) and despite a nap for the 2 hours drive after the seals.
Firstly, the budget airline that flies to Iceland is called Wow, but I meant the Blue Lagoon was just amazing. I came to the lagoon straight from the airport, as the lagoon is closer to the airport than Reykjavik, so it’s worth doing it at the beginning or the end of the journey. I’d planned this component of my holiday carefully, setting up a coach transfer from the airport, booking in the Blue Lagoon, as it seems it can get very busy. Overall, it was rather seamless, save for the ‘where’s my coach’ moments…
Arriving in Reykjavik (which is taking a lot of brain power to spell without using autocorrect) it was rainy and super windy. Thankfully we had the aerobridge, unlike boarding in Amsterdam, where I got a bit rained on lining up to board. Wow is a super low cost carrier which means they checked and checked again one’s luggage. I paid for a checked bag, even though my suitcase would fit in overhead bins. I carry my swiss army knife, so it has to be this way. Otherwise, I had a backpack, and sick of carry my winter coat, I also had a light bag with the coat and some snacks in it. Of course, that did not pass the watchful eye at the gate, so I held the snacks and draped the coat over my arm, and suddenly all was right in the world!?
The in flight magazine and the branding on the planes clearly show that the airline has a sense of humour! I wonder if all of Iceland will be like this!
On arrival at about 14:00hrs I was an hour and a half early for the bus shuttle I’d booked. There is a competing company, which was heavily advertised in the in flight magazine, and it seems they to depart at the same time. I suspect the coaches are aligned better with departures than arrivals, but who knows. In any case, I found a quiet location to eat some snacks and reorder my possessions, and get those gloves and second coat ready – it was blustery and rainy outside.
At around 15:00hrs I went looking for the bus I was meant to take – braving the cold. My oh my did the wind cut through me! I saw the brand of buses I needed, but not to the right location, so I asked and was advised to proceed to the carpark. I waited out there, getting increasingly cold (and struggling to turn the pages of my novel in polar fleece gloves) and decided it was 15.15hrs and I didn’t want to miss the bus, I would return to the terminal to confirm the pickup location, as the bus was due to leave at 15.30. They reconfirmed the location (in the carpark) and advised I could wait til the last minute to head back out there again. When I did return, I went over to the bus (which had been there for all the time I’d been in the carpark, but without a driver). I went to the driver, and he loaded my bag. And then we left. Yep… I was the SOLE passenger! Lucky I wasn’t waiting for ‘my people’ or the crowd to congregate with!!
The bus trip showed just how different the landscape is – there’s definitely as sense of lunar. It is very rocky and then a light moss. I was interested to see a sign at the Blue Lagoon that advised not to smoke near the moss as it’s flammable! It was rainy, but I attempted to get some initial photos.
Arriving at the Blue Lagoon, I placed my suitcase in the little luggage area out house, and took a ticket which was to reconcile my bill later. When I entered the change rooms i discovered the lockers were certainly large enough for my suitcase, and I felt cheated! I quickly peeled off the layers, down to a bikini – which felt so strange given the cold ‘feeling like’ 1C! I put on my flip flops and took my BYO towel (both items can be packaged for a further sum, but it didn’t seem worth it to me). Of course, there’s little use for either item for long… as the main aim is GETTING IN THE WATER! There’s hooks everywhere to hang the robes they provide or your towels.
Before entering the lagoon, you have to shower, without your swim suit. There’s a great graphic, as languages vary! There’s provided conditioner, which you’re advised to put in your hair to protect it from the damaging silica. There’s also body wash.
This is the pavilion you enter the water from
I wasn’t game enough to take my phone into the lagoon – many were, and undoubtedly got some great photos. The great advantage of me waiting was that the weather cleared, resulting in blue skies which were just delightful!
In addition to the little coves in the lagoon, there’s some steam rooms, a water fall, and a ‘bar’ where you go to get a silica mask (or if you paid extra, a second algar mask… all this is policed through a coloured wrist band system, which can be used to buy drinks in water too). Early on, I went to the steam cave, and overhead Australian accents. I said hello, ad befriended 22 year old Paris and her mother Tanya who are in Iceland for a wedding! From then on, we circulated to the extremities of the lagoon, they showed me where to get a mask. The mask is white and feels so soft and smooth going on. You leave it for 10-15 minutes and then wash it off.
After about an hour in the water, our finger and toes were like prune, and Tanya was ready to leave the water, and so was I! Then you back track – returning to the showers. I felt a bit… over warm water by this stage, so just rinsed briefly. Then I found my towel I’d left rolled in the interior racks, and proceeded to dry off. This is the Turkish towel I bought last year and have pretty much never used! I kept eyeing off the provided towels, as the fluffiness seems to equal drying in my mind. I also used some of the provided moisturiser.
Returning to the locker area, there’s bays of hair drying facilities, and a sink, and cotton buds and cotton rounds. It’s all very chic and stylish. Once I was dressed I wanted to head back to the outdoor cafe/bar area I’d come through to get into the water… however this isn’t allowed. There some clear segregation of clothed/unclothed! Thankfully there’s another area where you can get photos.
I foolishly didn’t prepare to coordinate all this ‘dressing’ with the bus timetable, and when I did look, it was 7 minutes past the hour, and the bus was due to leave on the hour, every hour. Thankfully, like almost everywhere I’ve been this trip, the cafe in the Blue Lagoon has free wifi. So I drafted this post! My face feels super smooth, but my hair feels dry – and perhaps the edge of my face and hair are still not 100% clean of the mask… But I feel much warmer after the windblown airport carpark and bus hunting missions. And it’s been so nice to see the clouds clear and see blue skies!