Thursday, August 29, 2013

Iceland

This past summer, I was fortunate enough to take an amazing trip to the British Isles, which was made even better by our first stop in Iceland!! Iceland is one of those places that I've always dreamt of going because of the mystery and unknown, and it lived up to expectations. Although a little chilly for a summer vacation, it was amazing and I would go back tomorrow if I could!

We arrived around midnight at Keflavik Airport, which is about 45 minutes from Reykjavik, the capital city and main tourist hub. The Flybus is a cheap and easy way to get anywhere from the airport, and is available until the last flights have come in for the night. You can buy tickets inside the airport, or as you are getting on the bus. You do not have to buy them in advance! If you buy the "plus" ticket, they will drop you off in front of your hotel, not just at a central location. It's worth a few extra dollars!


Reykjavik Harbor & Music Hall
Because of it's position, Iceland gets 24 hours of sunlight during the summer, which means 24 hours of darkness during the winter. (However, the Northern Lights can be seen, which I think would definitely be worth the trip during that time!) We headed right to our hotel, being so late and having had a long day of travel, we decided to get some rest and be prepared for the next day, the first day of our great adventure! **One tip that we received before arriving in Iceland, was to buy alcohol at the duty free store in the airport before heading into town. It's cheaper there, as everything in Iceland is expensive, especially alcohol...we found this to be a great tip, and you will just be joining all of the locals who already know this to be true, in line at the duty free store, buying their quota!**

The key to Reykjavik is Laugavegur. That is the main street for everything in the small town. Staying anywhere on or directly off of this street will ensure that you have restaurants, bar, clubs, shopping, and tours at your disposal. Our "hotel", the Einholt Apartments, was right off of this street and there was a 24 hours pizza place nearby, which was key to survival! So when planning your trip to Reykjavik, keep this road in mind and don't stay anywhere far from here, you will regret it!

It's a Whale!
On the first morning, we decided to walk around, get the lay of the land, and grab something to eat. We stopped by the tourist information office first, to see what our options for the day might be. We had a few ideas in mind, but didn't settle on anything except the fact that we needed to eat! While eating we discussed the options: whale watching, horse back riding, golden circle, sky diving, etc. Shortly after lunch, we decided to go whale watching. It was a nice enough day and with the ocean right there, why not? We were pleasantly surprised by all of the marine life that we were able to see! There were tons of porpoises swimming around, along with the Puffin, which are my new favorite birds...and of course, we saw whales. It was amazing, and we learned about the smell that comes when they shoot the water out of their blowholes! It was hard to get great pictures because they would come up so fast out of nowhere and then disappear back underwater, but it was an amazing experience and something magical to see.

After watching whales all afternoon, we stopped at a couple of bars on the way back to the hotel to see what was going on and find out what the scene was like...it was Saturday after all, so we had to have someplace to go out and celebrate being in Iceland! One of the places we stopped at was the Lebowski Bar. Yes, it was exactly what it sounds like...themed from the Big Lebowski, bowling and all. It was interesting, but happy hour was buy one, get one, so saddle up! We were informed that we didn't need to head out for the evening until 11pm or later, so we had time to take a nap (get rid of some of the jet lag) and get ready...and that's what we did! **There is a "tourist" newspaper available in the information centers, and it will outline things to do and give you a complete list of all bars and clubs in Reykjavik, which includes reviews, prices, and who goes where.**

At Glaumbar
We headed out around midnight, and started the evening at a lounge called B5. It seemed like it was the place to be. People dressed nicely, good cocktails, and a line at the door. They played great music and there was plenty of people watching to be done! We took a breather and headed over to Glaumbar, which is known to be a crap-hole, but we wanted to see it. The inside looked like the inside of an old wooden ship, and smelled equally as bad. The drinks were fairly cheap, so we didn't complain about that, but it was a one and done! We headed back to B5 and had made friends that could get us past the line, which was nice. (Not bad for only one day in the country!) We had a great time. I decided to go check out a few more places, while Kim stayed and danced. Normally we would NEVER separate, however, since everything was on one street and it was light outside, eh, what the heck?! I went to a few different places, met some Icelandic friends, had my credit cards frozen, and ran out of cash. AWESOME! By the time I got back to the hotel, Kim was already there...and she was nice enough to go grab us each a slice of pizza, which we both needed before heading to bed. What a night!

Getting some fresh, spring water
Pingvellir National Park
Pingvellir National Park
The next day was a later start, but with the late nights, come late mornings! We had a tour called the "Golden Circle". This is a signature tour in Iceland, as it hits three of the main tourist points in the country. We went with Iceland Excursions, as they were recommended to us and I would pass that recommendation along...they were always on time, professional, and very friendly and informative! The Golden Circle begins at Pingvellir National Park. This is where the two continental shelves come together, so as you drive through the park, you go from the Euro/American side to the Asian side. It's pretty neat and any good tour guide will explain all of this and show you where the fault lines are, which are clearly visible. There are also some great places to stop and refill water bottles, as there are many natural springs in Iceland and they have the purest water in the world. It's amazing!! Once you leave the country, you will notice a difference in the water all around. The next stop was the Gullfross Waterfall. It's a smaller version of Niagara, or for you beautiful South Americans, a much smaller version of Iguazu Falls (still my favorite). It was very beautiful though and you can get right up next to the falls to take pictures or just get a great view. There is also a path up above where you can get a better panoramic view of the falls. At the visitors center, they are said to have some of the best lamb stew. Lamb is very popular in Iceland, as it is a staple in their diet. I've never been a fan, but as with my traveling, I like to try different foods and those that are popular in other countries...so I tried the lamb stew, and after two slurps, I was done! It just wasn't me and it wasn't making me feel good, so I had to move on to the white asparagus soup.
Gulfross Waterfall

Gulfross the "Golden Falls"
The last stop on the tour was the Geysir Hot Spring area. There were geysir, big and small all around, similar to some areas of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The main "attraction" geysir spouted every few minutes, so it was neat to see and get pictures of and you didn't have to wait around, like for Old Faithful. Since our tour was running on-time, our guide took us to a couple of additional sights, another small waterfall area and Kerio crater. The crater was magnificent, and Bjork has even performed a concert from the center of the lake inside of the crater. All in all, we had seen a lot of southern Iceland and were amazed by everything. It's such a beautiful landscape, in such an interesting way. Most of the ground is moss-covered lava rock, seeing as the island is made up of volcanoes. There are no trees on the island, except the ones that have been reintroduced in recent years. There are mountains and flat lands, all surrounded by the ocean, and it is a sight to see.
Kerio Crater

Geysir
Our final day in Iceland was a sad one, but not wasted! We got up early, packed our bags, and headed to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a large, lava rock area that has been filled up with the steam water from the hydroelectric plant nearby. It created an area of mineral rich, milky blue water that stays around 97 degrees Fahrenheit. We decided that the Blue Lagoon was our place to splurge on this trip and we were going to live it up before getting on our flight to London.

Outside of the Blue Lagoon
bathing area
Enjoying our mud masks!
Blue Lagoon bathing area
When you walk out into the lagoon area, there is steam rising from the water because the air temperature is at most 50 degrees. There are people moving slowly around the lagoon, some with mud masks on, and some enjoying a glass of wine. We got in an tried out the water, which was amazing and sucks you in immediately. We soaked for a while, and then decided to head over for our massages. These massages are done in the water. You lie on a floating mat with a warm, water-soaked blanket over the top of you, and the masseuse reaching underneath you to massage from the bottom. It's hard to explain, but holy crap did it feel good! We only went for the 30 minute massage, next time, it's gonna be the whole shabang! The entire midday was awesome. We had lunch, a glass of wine, put on our own mud masks and left feeling amazing and refreshed. I wasn't ready to leave Iceland, but since I had to, that was the send off that I definitely needed!! **For anyone going to the Blue Lagoon, wet your hair and put in a large amount of conditioner before entering the pools. Leave the conditioner in your hair while you are bathing. The large amount of chemicals in the lagoon can damage your hair and will leave it feeling stringing and abnormal for days.**

Iceland--Amazing--Go Now!!

No comments:

Post a Comment