A weekend in Iceland
As you might have seen on Instagram, we took a short vacation to Iceland in the beginning of March. We'd been talking about traveling to Iceland for years, but the timing never seemed right — it was either too cold, too dark, or too windy. As Northerners we often feel that when we travel we want to experience someplace that is warmer, or at least not colder, which made Iceland hard to fit into our plans.
Well, I take everything back. I've been to some very beautiful countries but nothing compares to Iceland. The word beautiful doesn't begin to describe it. You can't even compare a sunny beach to the cold black beach in Vik, not that both of them aren't beautiful, but they're from different worlds. I might go as far as to say they're from different universes. Because it really felt that way, I simultaneously felt that I was on Mars, in Middle-Earth and in the wild west. I was instantly hooked, and I can't wait to go back some day — hopefully sooner rather than later.
What follows is a short guide to experiencing Iceland for the first time during a short stay. But before we into that I have to say that Iceland is surprisingly large. Looking at it on a map I seriously thought we'd be able to drive around it during a weekend. Well, we could have done that but then we wouldn't have done anything else during that time.
It's deceptively large.
To give you an estimate, it takes 50 minutes to fly from one end to the other. So after writing in some addresses in google maps (my number one travel buddy) I realised we'd have to cut down on the driving and concentrate on a few areas. After a bit of research I cam across something called the golden circle —a route of some of the most famous waterfalls, craters and other sights in southwestern Iceland— which sounded amazing to me, so we decided to concentrate on that!
Keflavik, where the international airport is located, is very close to the world famous blue lagoon, so I thought it would be perfect to start our weekend there. False. Apparently you're supposed to book a spot in advance, so don't do what we did and just show up. You'll have to leave without taking a dip. Well, at least that's something we have to look forward to next time!
Our first night was in a place called Hveragerði, and to get there we had to drive over a mountain — did I mention the weather changes very fast in Iceland? — and about 5 minutes into driving on the mountain one of the craziest snowstorms creeps up on us and we have to drive slower than a turtle in order not to drive straight off the mountain, and it was kinda scary. But we made it and we never felt happier to arrive on flat terrain again.
When we woke up the next morning we found ourselves in the most beautiful area with hot steams and lush green hills everywhere.
After a modest hike, and also realizing we don't have a hikers body, we decided to hit the road again and see some sights! And let me tell you, there is a lot to see in Iceland so whatever route you decide on I'm sure that will be amazing.
Everything is amazing.
Very close to where we were staying was Kerið, a world famous crater which was totally worth a hike around. Ok, calling it a hike might be misleading, it takes about 5-10 minutes to walk around it. Sometimes during the summer they have concerts on the water, and I can only imagine how insanely cool that must be.
Our next stop was the waterfall Seljalandsfoss, which we have to admit, we stumbled upon by accident. We were heading towards Skógafoss, and whilst driving we see this incredible waterfall, and around it tens of small waterfalls. So naturally we had to pull over and have a look.
It originates from Eyjafjallajökull, the famous volcano that caused every flight in Europe to be canceled that one summer.
A cool thing with this particular waterfall is that you're allowed to walk right through/behind the waterfall, and first I was like "I'll get wet. How fun could it possibly be?" Then I slapped myself hard in the face and while the people around me wondered why I had done that, I walked (more like ran) behind the waterfall, because you're in Iceland and what the fuck are you whining about?! And let me tell you, it was the most fun I've had in a long while! It was as cold as Poseidons hug, but I couldn't really feel the cold because I was behind a waterfall in Narnia. So after that we decided never to not do stuff because it feels uncomfortable, just do it because it will always be worth it, or at least an experience you wouldn't have had if you wouldn't have done it. Do you get my point? I feel, as I'm reading this again, that I'm kind of not making any sense. But let me tell you, that run under that ice-cold waterfall is one of the most memorable experiences from that weekend.
After this, it was time to drive towards are initial goal, Skógafoss. It too is a world famous waterfall, and just as beautiful and breathtaking. But after Seljalandsfoss, I wasn't as impressed as I should have been. Don't get me wrong, I was impressed and in awe of the crazy nature Iceland has, but when I saw Seljalandsfoss for the first time I jumped around like a kid on christmas eve. Skógafoss is packed with tourists, so either go really early or late to catch it on your lonesome.
Or you can photoshop all the people out of your pictures like I did.
But the real treat is walking all the way to the top of the waterfall, and seeing it from above. The view is breathtaking. Literally. I've never felt more out of shape than after walking the hundreds of steps up to that platform. Phew.
But the day was nowhere close to finished yet, we still had Vik to look forward to. Knowing nothing more than the fact that it looks nice, it has black sand and a few cool rocks by the shore, we started driving towards it.
And boy am I happy we did.
It is to this day the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen and the pictures are magical. By accident we timed it perfectly by arriving during the sunset and so there was a light golden glow over the beach. The freezing Atlantic water caused a fog over the shore and even as you looked with your bare eyes everything seemed to be black and white.
It was a photographers dream.
The ocean was really scary —there were signs saying that you should never turn your back towards the ocean because you never know when there will be a big-ass wave that drags you into the ice cold big blue. I took that warning literally and refused to turn my back towards it, no matter how far away I was. It looked kinda strange I guess.
Next morning we woke up in a new hotel that we had arrived at the previous evening. We checked out and asked the receptionist where we would find the famous geysir Strokkur (and Geysir, but that's not active at the moment). The lady didn't seem to understand our question, and finally, after staring at us in disbelief for a while she said "It's literally across the road behind you".
Hehe. We were staying at Hotel Geysir, but we didn't get it. Whatever. But in any case, we got to witness a few burst which was very entertaining and impressive!
But the pièce de résistance was our last stop before Reykjavik — the waterfall Gullfoss. It was the most incredible sight I've ever seen in my life, and as we stood there we both fell silent. The waterfall falls into three staircases making the waterfall ever so impressive. The water was a deep turquoise, and the sound of the water hitting the rocks was mesmerising.
Luckily (or unluckily depending on how you see it) our cameras battery died just when we arrived to the waterfall so we only got a few snaps. I didn't mind at that point, I really just wanted to enjoy the view and not feel the urge to take 5000 photos of it.
Our quest continued to our last stop for the trip - Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. After everything we'd seen on our trip in Iceland we had high expectations about the city. I pictured a small, beautiful and colorful city infront of me. But truth be told, I wasn't that impressed, and that's not the citys fault, that's more on me and my weird made up image of it. The city was a regular city like a lot of Northern European cities are. But at that point we were hungry, cold and it smelled like sulfur all over the city so I have to admit we're not the best ones to give advice on where to go and what to do, I'm sure there are a lot of amazing guides for that. We did eat a really tasty dinner at a very cozy restaurant called ROK right next to Hallgrímskirkja, so that was at least good.
But to be fair, we came for the nature and we'll return for the nature and I for one can't wait to return soon and explore the northern part of the island!
If you have any great tips on what we should see next time, let us know! It won't be long before we return.
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