Sunday July 6th 2014
We arrived at Keflavik International Airport at around 9:30 AM. The flight from New York City wasn’t bad at all, you think of Iceland being a European country and then realize it is nowhere near mainland Europe so of course the flight would be short. The airport itself was really nice, the duty free shops and other nice shopping areas were on par with most other European capital airports. We grabbed a bottle of vodka since it was going to be half the price of the alcohol in the rest of the country. Better to have a few sips before going out than blowing a lot of money having a good time at the bars. We rented a car, since it was going to be by far the best way to see everything we wanted to in Iceland within our week long visit. The vehicle was small by American standards, but perfect and efficient for the narrow roads here. We loaded up, pulled out the map I had printed off of Google, and set off for the Blue Lagoon, which was not far at all from the airport. * let me say right now, printing off your map from Google’s English version is a bad idea. It butchered all of the road names because of translation issues and made following the directions challenging Immediately after leaving the confines of Keflavik (the airport is named after the city it resides in), the landscape changed dramatically. We weren’t in Florida anymore. A landscape that was covered in moss covered rocks and small mountains greeted us, the road winding its way somehow through it all. I have no idea how they built this highway, blasting the rocks out of the way I would assume. After about a half hour, which was spent with our mouths agape and saying “holy shit, we’re in Iceland” over and over, we arrived at the entrance to the Lagoon. You can see the giant plumes of smoke and steam rising out of the lagoon for quite a ways away. We got out our bathing suits and headed up the path. Before you get to the building entrance, you can see a moat of the iconic baby blue water. We had bought our tickets online, which gave us access to the lagoon, an alcoholic drink, and a small sample of the body lotion they manufacture. We went and changed and met back at the entrance to go down into the lagoon. Even though it was July, there was a cold breeze that made standing outside in our bathing suits pretty uncomfortable. As soon as we waded into the water, it was fine. The water felt like a bath tub, it was so warm. There are points within the lagoon that have steam rising out of natural vents in the rocks. We got our drinks from the bar that is built directly in the water. There are foot bridges and patios all along the lagoon, making it a very peaceful, convenient, and beautiful experience. I was convinced into smearing the mud/clay found in the lagoon all over my face, as some sort of cleansing process. After that, it was time to explore another part of Suðurnes (Southern Peninsula). When I was looking up places to go in Iceland, the amazing rock formations known as sea stacks always caught my eye. They are rocky spires that jut out straight from the beach. They used to be part of cliffs that were washed away from centuries of erosion. The area on the southern part of this region has several of them, as well as a cliff that flattens out and looks out over the Atlantic. Its called Valahnúkur. There were only a few places on the web that gave adequate reference to this area, so hopefully this blog can help someone out that wants to locate it. The smaller road that went south down to the coast from the main road was very bumpy, I was worried our small rental car was going to take a beating. Luckily, the Icelandic rental car agencies must really equip these cars with good tires because nothing went wrong the entire trip. We pulled up to a rocky clearing (there is no way in hell I am calling it a parking lot), and set out to the edge of the cliff. On a clear calm day with the tide out, it may have been possible to get right up to the sea stacks, but this day was not one of them. It was really windy, and we put up our hoods to keep our faces warm. It was worth the trek up the cliff on a small foot path, as the view was incredible.
We left the coast and headed north to the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik. While not a sprawling size like some of Europe’s other capital cities, it still seemed quite large because of the suburbs and smaller cities that just blend right into one another until you are actually in Reykjavik. We found our hostel, right on the outskirts of the main part of town. There was a hill that sloped up and had an enormous church sitting on the top of it, and it was readily visible from our room. After getting situated I went on a nice 4 mile run through a lot of different areas of the city. I went up the hill to the church, and after being in Florida for so long it was nice to do something on an incline. I went back down the hill on a cobblestone street with a lot of shops and restaurants, there were plenty of people out and about on a Sunday evening. After getting to the harbor, I headed back to the room. Since this was our only night in Iceland’s biggest city, we wanted to see as much as possible while everything was still open. We wouldn’t have to worry about it getting too dark to see the sites on this trip, which was nice. When looking up things online to do, I came across an odd recommendation. There is apparently a hot dog stand that over half of the country has eaten at. I have been to several Scandic countries and I have never even heard of hot dogs being anything of note. But let me tell you, when I bit into this dog, I was transported to Icelandic food heaven. Holy shit this thing was amazing. I ordered mine with whatever the typical toppings were, and there was some sort of tan colored sauce that just sent this wiener over the edge. We went on a stroll along the harbor and then back up the hill to a coffee shop. Every cup of coffee I had on this trip was great, I ordered mostly cappuccinos. Samantha usually got a hot cocoa mocha drink that was also really good. After getting back to the hostel, we spoke to the chick working the desk for a bar suggestion before pre-gaming with the vodka we had purchased. We ended up going to one of the older bars in the city, and there was a decent crowd despite it being Sunday. Everyone was really friendly, I ended up talking to a ton of people and doing several shots with random strangers. Unfortunately, I was an idiot and accepted some sort of tobacco that you put under your gums, kind of like the dip we have in the states. I immediately went sideways and felt my stomach going to hell. I barely made it out onto the front porch before throwing up everywhere. Luckily, the dude I was drinking with helped Samm get me to the car and gave her pretty decent directions out of the downtown area. Somehow we made it back in one piece, while I was vomiting all over the streets out of the car window. Day one in Iceland went down in a blaze of glory.
Iceland | Day 1: Reykjavik & Suðurnes | Day 2: Akureyri & drive North | Day 3: Mývatn & Goðafoss | Day 4: Dettifoss & drive West to Norðfjörður | Day 5: Eistnaflug | Day 6: Glacier Lagoons & the drive South