We departed hot and humid Washington D.C. on Saturday night at approximately 8.40pm, arriving six hours later in cold and windy Reykjavik, Iceland, at 7am Sunday morning.
Being novices to this whole travel game, we timed our sleep wrong and arrived in Iceland feeling like the walking dead. And unfortunately, we were unable to check into our hotel and were forced to dump our bags and go in search of somewhere warm to pass the time. We strolled down the centre of town and found a bus tour office and signed up for a morning of sightseeing around the city of Reykjavik.
Some interesting facts about Iceland
Iceland was settled in 874AD by the Vikings, or Norsemen, from Norway and Scandinavia, and their Irish slaves. Iceland is now home to 320,000 people, 120,000 of whom reside in Reykjavik and has no standing army. The 103 sq km island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes, earthquakes and geysers. And, 15% of the island is still under ice glaciers.
Iceland has featured in media headlines in the last few years, mainly because its entire banking system systematically collapsing in 2008 and the April 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull (special prizes to anyone who can pronounce that correctly) which caused enormous disruption to air travel across western and northern Europe over a period of six days. As you might remember, it made international headlines when about 20 countries closed their airspace and it affected hundreds of thousands of travellers.
Recently, Iceland’s tourism has boomed and it’s a great stop over between North America and Europe.
The largest city, Reykjavik (I love saying the name!), is fairly small, and except for some spectacular look-out points and unique churches and architecture, we didn’t find too much to see in the city itself.
Traveller tip: If you ever visit Iceland, remember to bring warm clothes. It was between six and nine degrees Celsius when visited at the end of May, which is when summer should be starting!
The Blue Lagoon, Iceland
After a tour of the city we trudged back to our apartment to get changed and then took another bus trip about 40 minutes west of the city to a unique geothermal spa situated in a lava field called the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon offers many recreational options such as massages and spa treatments; however we decided to simply enjoy bathing in the milky-blue, hot water springs. It was a soothing 37 degrees Celsius in the water and a cool eight degrees Celsius out of the water. We enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere and chilled for two hours, sometimes enjoying the massaging waterfall or floating up to the bar to order an Icelandic beer. After freezing through the city tour earlier, I could not imagine being any more warm than I was in the Blue Lagoon.
The sites of Reykjavik
On our return to Reykjavik we dined at the most northerly Indian restaurant in the world, just across the road from our apartment. It was amazing food, but this is when we discovered that food was just one of many things that are incredibly expensive in Iceland. For two main meals and a side of Nann (no drinks or appetizers) we were facing a bill over 7,900 Icelandic Krona, or $AUD62.
Traveller tip: Between 7,000 and 10,000 Icelandic Krona is the average price in Iceland for a simple meal. Travelers be warned: it is quite expensive to travel in Iceland on a budget!
We retreated to our apartment at around 8.30pm, noting that the sun was still high in the sky, and proceeded to crash into hibernation for the next 14 hours. We’d been on the go for more than 32 hours.
Discovering Iceland’s stunning waterfalls, glaciers and volcanoes
We finally awoke to a beautiful sunny nine degree day in Reykjavik on Monday and spent the afternoon visiting Iceland’s most famous sights (according to the tourist books).
We visited Pingvellir National Park, where the Icelandic Parliament was established (under a cliff, there was no house) in the year 930AD. We then visited a river that flows down into a wide curved three-step staircase and then abruptly plunges in two stages (11 meters and 21 metres) into a crevice 32 metres deep, forming the stunning Gullfoss waterfall.
We then bussed it to the geyser that erupts every five to 10 minutes, spouting hot water 20 – 30 metres into the air. The Great Geysir (the original one) used to spout water up to 70 metres in the air before becoming inactive after some earthquakes a few years ago.
Arriving back in Reykjavik, we decided not to waste the night in hibernation and went on a bit of a self-guided pub tour around the city center.
Experiencing the Icelandic nightlife
Reykjavik is known for its wild partying and nightlife, but unfortunately we were unable to find much of it. Many of the night clubs are only open on Friday and Saturday nights (this was a Monday night), so we prodded around until we found a few English and Irish style pubs that we rather enjoyed. Since most places started to close after 1am, and our bus to the airport was booked for 5am, we decided to return home shortly after midnight and witnessing our first white night. Also, you have to be rich to drink in Iceland, 15,000 Krona ($AUD110) between two people will not get you far; and it is much cheaper to stick to the local draft beer.
While the sun apparently ‘sets’ at about 10.30pm and ‘rises’ at 3am in May, it is still so close that it is 24 hours of daylight during the summer months. I must say that this did mess with our heads just a little and we were a little tired on the bus a few hours later.
The next stop on our extended honeymoon…
We have now arrived in Paris (!) and I am writing this from our two-star, cheap hotel near Bastille in the 14th arrondissements while Dan has a nana nap to refuel for tonight. It’s a beautiful 26 degrees outside and the sun is shining. Tomorrow we’re going to picnic under the Eiffel Tower, or do something else that is terribly Parisian! I must remember, after Iceland, that we are on a budget, so no crazy dinners and expensive bottles of wine for us. But to tell you the truth… I think that will suit us just fine! Missing you all xxx
J & D
Ps. I have been without my old man cane for two days now and, other than some terrible bruising, my leg is almost back to normal. A good thing too, since I have just realised that I left the cane by the front door of our apartment in Iceland! It served me well.
Published on: May 30, 2012 @ 14:58 #12monthhoneymoon