Domestic goddess and backyard explorer with a passion for freelance writing!
Published January 7th 2016
An extra-planetary experience like no other
Iceland- the land that continues to give; be it winter, summer or any other season. Okay, I admit I didn't think up of going to Iceland on a random whim. It was something that had come up in several conversations with our friends. And then some more. That's when I thought it must truly be an amazing place. So it was definitely on our bucket list of one of the top things to do.
The untouched beauty of Iceland is equal, if not better than even South Island, New Zealand. And that was incredible. Volcanoes, geothermal hot springs, glaciers, lava fields, geysers, mountains, rivers, and waterfalls of all sizes and types, not to mention a nearly midnight sun in summer. You name it, it's there.
Partly, due to the Eurasian and North American tectonic plate movement that cuts through Iceland and to it being an untouched, remote island in the northern hemisphere with long days and long nights depending on the season. And also due to the amazing fauna and flora you can't see anywhere else in the world. Like say, Icelandic horses, with their special gaits. Did you know no other horses from anywhere in the world are allowed in Iceland?
You could spend as much or as little time as you want in Iceland but more the merrier if you ask me- there's just that much cool stuff to see, and whilst it is a small island but its not that small that one can drive around it in a day, for example. We had 2 full days and 3 nights in Iceland.
After landing in Keflavik airport, we picked up our rental car (if you are planning to be adventurous and go into smaller, gravel roads for example near the geothermal, volcano territory, I'd recommend getting a four wheel drive - it's just safer). Be aware of the emergency number to contact in Iceland and it's handy to have the rental company's contact number too just in case. Driving in summer was super easy, just remember it's a left hand drive - so opposite side of the road to UK and Australia!
Driving around just gave us the added flexibility that we wanted. That night we explored Reykjavik, the capital and had dinner in the city at an American burger place. Parking is generally free after 6pm and street parking is relatively easy to find. We checked in at our self-serve apartment in Kopavogur, which is about 4-5 miles from Reykjavik, which was pretty convenient.
It was an early start the next day after a fulfilling breakfast at 'The Laundromat Cafe' in the city, a cool joint that opened at 8am. We ticked off the 'Golden Circle' which included Thingvellir National park. You can walk around the park, which would take about an hour and see a waterfall, the 'wall' which is where ancient Icelandic parliaments (the first parliament) was held and the bridge (above the river) and see the visitor centre.
After this, we drove further north to the Geyser - its actually a series of 4 geysers, only one of which is active frequently. The geothermal area was quite interesting- smoky with sulphur smells throughout, and if your reflexes are quick enough, you can get some amazing photographs of the boiling hot water and steam spurting out of what appears to be a harmless pool of bubbling water.
Next stop - Gullfoss. And was it a vision for the eyes! Almost as magnificent as Niagara, the sharp cliffs, and the double falls formed a triangle, only to be outdone by the glistening rainbow above it. Would you believe if I told you, that the entire falls and the river used to belong to one man- his backyard now one of the most visited sites in Iceland. You can walk along, and right to the top of the falls for various camera angles.
Faxi falls, also nearby, was on the way back south toward the capital. It was quite inconspicuous and not well marked so you may have to trust your GPS/ your instinct. The time now was about 3.30 pm in the afternoon, so on our way back we stopped at a cafe for coffee and got instructions from the locals about where else we could go nearby. And lucky we did, because we wouldn't have seen Kerio otherwise! A crater lake, it is a magnificent site indeed, especially when you can walk around the circumference of it and also down into it to touch the lake. Awesome.
Feeling adventurous, I wanted to go to Krysuvik, another geothermal area about 45 minutes from Reykjavik. Driving uphill and into the snow peaked mountains (which we had seen earlier from afar) was actually quite intimidating! Especially when you're surrounded by hundreds of years old lava everywhere. It was magnificent, like another planet, yet eery. This was the case mostly because in our small car we decided it would be unsafe to navigate into the smaller gravel roads, especially when we weren't sure how long we had to drive on those roads.
That sums up our first day in Iceland, ending on a Friday night.