Welcome to my first blog entry! I’m tickled to report that 2008 has been absolutely packed with a myriad of fun and interesting travel destinations. Since February I’ve been to Cancun, Morocco, England (barely), Iceland and – over Thanksgiving, I will make it to Panama. That’s three continents and five countries in nine months! My traveling itch has officially been scratched.
Reykjavik was a short, 4-day whirlwind in early September, and I’d love to go back. It’s an expensive place to visit for Americans (although the Icelandic Kronur has dropped significantly in the past month, and it’s not that expensive to visit anymore.) Still, at the time, the taxi ride from the airport, which took about 45 minutes, cost $150. Ouch! Beers cost about $10, and a sub sandwich and a soda cost about $15. Needless to say, I did much more sightseeing than I did purchasing of souvenirs – but photos are my favorite souvenirs anyway.
Downtown Reykjavik is very cute. Lots of brightly colored buildings, cobblestone streets and tons of cafes, bars and restaurants. It’s very walkable. Thankfully, most everyone speaks completely fluent English, for as much as I’ve tried to get a handle on Icelandic, my tongue ties itself in more knots than usual. Icelandic is an incredibly difficult language to learn, and many of the words have as many syllables as three English words. Don’t believe me? Check out the sign my friend Ann is pointing to…
The only other place I’ve been to which has as much stunning natural beauty as Iceland was New Zealand. We decided that the best way to pack in as much of the sights as possible was by doing the Golden Circle route by car, which takes you to three famous sites close to Reykjavik. Our first stop was at Thingvellir, where the world’s oldest parliament was founded. This place was really cool – literally! I finally got a taste of what Icelandic winds are like. In case you can’t tell, it was rather freezing.
After this quick stop we scurried back to our car (kindly being driven by an Icelandic friend of ours!) to head over to see Geysir, which is – you guessed it! – a large geyser (actually more than one.) Reykjavik is powered by clean, geothermal energy, and you can see evidence of the energy source all over the island, from the geysers to Blue Lagoon (more on that later!) to the volcanoes. At Geysir, we were able to see Strokkur, the smaller geyser, erupt a bunch of times, but the much larger geyser erupts much less frequently, and it’s difficult to time. Officially, I was never quite quick enough with the camera…unofficially I was too scared to get close enough to the bubbling pool to watch for the charasteristic warning signs of eruption.
As you walk about the Marian-like landscape here, you’ll notice that many of the pools are a beautiful blue or green color. This is due to minerals like The water in many of the pools were a beautiful blue color due to the hogh concentration of minerals in the water, some of which your nose can instanly pick up on; the whole area was pretty stinky due to the sulfur content. (Even when you take warm showers in Iceland, or wash your hands with warm water, the water has a stinky sulfur smell.) That being said though, the cold water coming out of the tap is without doubt the freshest, cleanest water I’ve ever tasted. And you never need ice cubes because the water is absolutely frigid!
Here’s a pic just after the geyser exploded…I just missed it! Just before we left and headed off to our next stop (the spectacular Gulfoss!), we ate some wild blueberries which were scattered on the sides of the road. Fun and delicious
Gulfoss was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. It was so incredibly beautiful, and you could feel and hear the power of the water. I would definitely come back here.This picture truly does not do Gulfoss justice.
After the Golden Circle tour, we went to a great restaurant on the ocean and had buckets of little lobsters. They’re much smaller than the ones you find in the U.S., and their flavor is more like shrimp than it is like lobster – but they were very good nonetheless! Over the next day or so, we walked around downtown Reykjavik and just enjoyed the city. It’s a very
charming city to walk around! We also visited Hallgrimur’s Church, the largest church in Iceland. It was unfortunately under serious renovation, so we couldn’t get get any pics of the outside of it, really. But, the views from the top of the church were amazing!
On our way back to the airport, we stopped off at the famous Blue Lagoon, a gorgeous geothermal spa. The average water temperature is over 100 degrees, though hot spots can really catch you by surprise!
The only unsettling thing about Blue Lagoon was that, up until a few years ago, some people suffered from bad burns from time to time in the waters. The water temperature is more regulated now, and very safe to swim in – but those hot spots do create little flickers of panic in my belly. And, while you can’t see it in the photos here, Blue Lagoon’s waters are technically not naturally occurring — the water is actually “waste water” from a nearby geothermal power plant. Basically, super hot water is vented from nearby lava flows, and after this water is used to run some turbines to make energy and then run through a heat exchanger to heat local water, after which the water is filtered into the Blue Lagoon.
In any case, this was definitely my favorite part of the entire trip – we spent a good two hours relaxing in the warm waters. I didn’t care that I was floating around in superheated waste water full of silica and sulfur – it sure felt nice! You could put mineral creams on your face as you swam around and get a “massage” underneath a waterfall. It was so relaxing and a wonderful way to say goodbye to Iceland.