We’re just a little pooped.
It’s early morning and we’re still mending from yesterday’s adrenalin rush. A 17-hour camera clicking marathon has taken its toll on this middle-aged couple. I’m not complaining, it was an inspiring day, worth every (Kodak) moment. The topper of course was last evenings nightcap that this island served up. In the wee hours of Valentine’s Day, Aurora made a brief appearance, lovely green hue and all, and that we were thankful for.
But today, right now, the heated seats are set to high, and our Yaris is pointed west (I think) ’cause we’re leaving directions to WAZE. It’s day 3 of a brief 4-day visit and we anticipate another awesome day.
Because this is Iceland and we’ve already grown to expect it.
Winter driving here can be deceiving and quite frankly, not for the weak of heart. Iceland teases you with sunny moments, but just as you begin to relax a grey blanket of snow can appear moving across the frozen road in front of you. You have to respect mother nature here, otherwise she’ll place you knee-deep in a ditch or worse. (All of which we witnessed).
And that’s exactly how the morning started. The snow was hitting the windshield with a vengeance. Although quiet, I knew what Mary was thinking? She’s not the most relaxed passenger and I knew this was making her anxious. “If it doesn’t clear up, I reluctantly quipped, we’ll just have to turn back and call it a day.” But just as quickly as we agreed, bright blue spots appeared to be breaking through the grey in front of us, turning one anxious passenger into a happy camper. Nothing could stop us now, we were off to the Golden Circle and a geothermal spa had our name written all over it.
They say that pictures are worth a thousand words, so here’s a visual odyssey of day 3 in beautiful Iceland.
Our trusted Yaris (automatic, I might add) complete with studded tires. Like that’s gonna help!
Two main routes transport most of the tourists here in Iceland. Ring Road, which we previously wrote about, and the very popular Golden Circle. Iceland’s beautiful southwest has many natural wonders so it can be crowded, depending on what time of year you go.
You can drive the entire length of the Golden Circle in about four to five hours, depending of course on how many stops you make along the way. Hitting up Pingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss will be on your must-see list as you tour this part of the island – and what you’ll witness there will definitely slow you down.
Silent roads weave their way through the frozen landscape and vanish into the distance. It’s a peaceful image that becomes almost commonplace as you navigate your way through the Golden Circle. I find the terrain captivating, its isolation and solitude is what makes it so beautiful.
In the Golden Circle area signs are well-marked, roads well paved, and the distances relatively short. But, there is a lot to see with many great photo opps’ along the way – like the images above. Most roads are quiet making it pretty easy to pull your car over so you can take advantage of the views and snap more photos.
Speaking of photo opps’, Thingvellir National Park may be Iceland’s most important historical site, but the view is what makes this stop memorable. Bonus, if you’ve been holding it for the last few hours, you’ll be happy to know that there are restrooms in the Visitor’s Center here – but they charge you, so bring some change.
The elevation here offers great views of Thingvellir Church (image above). This is also a great place to capture the Northern Lights (if you’re so lucky). The natural backdrop is enclosed by a varied belt of mountains on three sides, featuring lava fields, and Lake Thingallavatn at its southern end. Below, if you’re dressed for it, you can hike through the massive slabs of solid rock that goes for miles. If you’re some kind of scientist or work for National Geographic you’d know them as tectonic plates.
But save some of that Kodak film for what’s next on your Golden Circle tour. For Gullfoss is something spectacular, giving Niagara Falls a run for its natural beauty.
Gullfoss is Iceland’s most famous waterfall. A Spectacular double cascade dropping 32 meters, kicking up tiered walls of spray before thundering away down a narrow ravine. On sunny days the mist creates shimmering rainbows across glittering walls of ice.
By now you’re hungry right? One of the most anticipated stops for us was to hit up Laugarvatn. Located between Thingvellir and Geysir, this small lakeside town has two must-tries: Lindin, (above) an excellent restaurant, and Fontana, your pimped up geothermal spa. Linden’s lovely host Heiddis (above) will greet you with a smile and convince you to try the ‘reindeer’ burger, which we are delighted to report was very, very tasty. Hey, in Iceland, you do as Icelanders do.
Next door is part two of our afternoon in Laugarvatn. It’s time to soak up the thermal baths at Fontana’s Geothermal Spa overlooking lake Laugarvatn. The baths vary in depth, size and temperature and the cedar lined steam rooms have been built over natural hot springs. And if you’re brave enough (like Mary) you can go from the pool to the beach and wade into near freezing water – just so you can tell your friends you’ve done it.
The Blue Lagoon
What would a trip to Iceland be without a visit to the Blue Lagoon? Yup, it’s one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions, but we just had to (pardon the pun) soak up the experience. And we’re soooo glad we did. We took advice from previous visitors, and chose our visit carefully in two ways. First, you have to book ahead. You can do this online but do it well in advance. Secondly, we visited first thing in the morning on the day we were scheduled to fly out that afternoon. It’s calming mineral rich hot springs soothe the mind and the soul — which helps you relax on your upcoming 6 hour flight back home (adding in-flight drinks is an awesome combination).
Are you planning a visit to Iceland? If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to flip them over in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, stay tuned for our next adventure. We’ll be posting a photo essay of our upcoming trip to Puerto Rico and sailing throughout the southern Caribbean. Can’t wait.