Iceland is home to around 330,000 people, most of whom reside in the South West where the capital Reykjavik lies. Flying into this country is like landing on another planet, its baron rocks and hostile looking terrain make it look like there could be Martians waiting at the airport, thankfully there was not so we disembarked through the cold crisp air and picked up our campervan for the week.
It was getting late in the evening so by the time we had done all the paperwork it was pitch black and we were eager to find a spot to camp up for the night so we headed for the city centre in search of food and a place to literally camp up. We were really struggling to find places that were still open and we were pretty tired from driving round so we parked up near a residential area and made up the bed in the back, turned on the little in van heater and hopped into bed….with the thermals on.
Whilst driving to Reykjavik I we could see the green haze about the city, frustratingly it was really overcast so we didn’t get to see the Aurora in all its glory but it was surreal seeing how bright it was still, it looked at first like someone was beaming it from the ground, fingers crossed the clouds would disappear….they didn’t.
We were up with the lark…mostly because we were frozen to the bone, but think the hunger got us and we could now see where we were going. We headed into a shop for some breakfast and to waken up a bit…..well…. when I saw the prices of the food….that was more horrific than any alarm clock I’ve ever heard! To give you an idea of the scale, a prepacked egg mayonnaise sandwich (in a convenience shop) was 12 Euros…at this stage I started thinking about if it was feasible to sell drugs on our trip to raise the cash required… so we bit the bullet (and a 2 Euros worth chunk of sandwich) and braced ourselves for a very expensive trip.
Reykjavik is a ridiculously cool little town with all its multicolour little buildings, grassed roof houses and quirky shops it actually feels a bit like going back in time (except imagine everything in black and white). We spent a lot of time just wandering around and checking out the local cafes, art and crafts. We opted out of taking the tour bus as we did not feel that it was big enough to merit sitting on the bus and preferred to walk around this harbour side capital.
We were not going to let that ruin our time so we headed off on the golden circle, first stop was Pingvellir national park, about 40km drive north east of Reykjavik which lies in the middle of the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It’s a well visited tourist attraction because of its beauty and history, Including the Althing, the national parliament established in 930AD. Definitely worth the stop off, although inevitably when we drove up there were dozens of coaches offloading tourists so would try and get there early.
Driving around Iceland is what I would imagine Mars to look like, so baron with mountains everywhere, pockets of steam emanating from the tops of some of the mountains and gulley’s which remind you of how active this land can be, especially when talking to the locals who were on high alert that (volcano name) is due to erupt, which shares the same chambers as the famous Eyjafjallajokull (bet you didn’t even attempt to say that) That erupted 7 years ago bringing Europe to an avian standstill.
Our next stop was Gullfoss, a huge waterfall located in the canyon of the Olfusa river. It is known as the golden waterfall due to the glacial water that carries lots of sediments and gives it a golden appearance on sunny days. Not many words needed so thought you could just enjoy the picture.
The great Geysir is a must on your way around Iceland, the hot springs. Geysir from the Old Norse verb means ‘to gush’, and it certainly does, eruptions send water up to 70 metres into the air and are very sporadic in their time. Some people have to wait for hours, sometimes it does not even go off at all, but we were lucky and could time it around every 90 seconds. There is the smaller Strokkur (little Geysir) that erupts more frequently. The streams that surround the park are also near boiling and produce steam in the cold air which adds to the mystic feel of this country.
There is so much to see in Iceland and we didn’t have enough time to see it all, we got to see Hallgrimskirkja, Hekla and Selfoss on our golden circle route which is only a small portion of the south west island.
No trip to Iceland would be complete without a trip to the Blue Lagoon, the famous geothermal spring located in a lava field in Grindavik (the middle of nowhere). Unfortunately we underestimated its popularity and could only get entrance tickets at night time, but it still did not disappoint. We queued up and were given a locker, or more appropriately a wrist band which is used like a credit card, (which is included in the Standard ticket price of 6100 Icelandic Karona) and towels etc. are all add ons, it seems although Iceland kicked all the corrupt politicians and bankers out of the country, are still very much capitalists at heart. The spa is something else and can upgrade to getting massages, mud masks and the many bars located around the pool make this place unlike any on earth.
The spring is huge with series of bridges and tunnels from which you can relax in the 37 degree heat and look at the stars
I couldn’t recommend Iceland enough, before that first nail is placed in your coffin you have to go visit this country, it’s the most unique place we have visited so far and will hopefully be back one day….but take plenty money.