The Best Iceland Has to Offer
by Eli Hodapp
Despite the overly dramatic title, today didn’t start out so great. Following the insanity of last night that I wrote about there was also a oddly constant barrage of random (what I can only assume to be) fireworks which seemed to go off every time I was just about to fall asleep. So this morning I woke up tired, not feeling great, and having an internal debate as to whether or not I was even going to join the rest of the group for the bus tour. Staying in bed seemed awfully appealing, but it seemed pretty stupid to come all this way to Iceland and not go see the sights outside of the city.
We were scheduled to tour the “Golden Circle,” which basically is just a fancy name for the main sites you’re able to see in a day trip outside of Reykjavík. This involves seeing Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, the geysey-laden Haukadalur, and finally the Blue Lagoon spa. As we pulled out at 9:00 AM it was still dark out, miserably cold, and an incredible wind melded with this horrifyingly cold rain that just felt like you were being blasted with some kind of freezing cold bird shot. The wind was blowing so hard that it was having a serious impact on the bus’s ability to keep driving straight.
Around an hour later and the sun started to come up and we arrived at Þingvellir. It still was stupid cold, windy, and rainy. We reluctantly got off the bus to check out the “scenic overlook” which basically involved running across a parking lot covered in ice and soon-to-be-frozen standing water, while being drenched with rain. The whole reason my finger is in the above shot is because the wind was blowing so hard I had to clutch my iPhone with both hands to not have it blow away. I snapped a photo, and ran back to the bus, not sure if this picture was worth my now soaked-through jeans, shoes, and socks.
I had another good hour of bus time to vaguely dry off, and stew in my own rain soaked clothes, on the way to Gullfoss- Still debating whether or not I should’ve just stayed in bed. Luckily, the weather broke almost instantly when we arrived which allowed us all to enjoy this amazing marvel of nature. What’s awesome about this waterfall, which is by far the largest waterfall I’ve ever seen, is that it’s apparently entirely sourced by glaciers melting.
It sort of makes you realize just how unfathomably large glaciers are, as they’re capable of producing such a large volume of water and still existing. We walked all over Gullfoss, which allowed for several great angles of viewing the waterfall including seeing deep down inside of the huge crevasse that all the water flows into before racing out.
These photos really don’t do it justice. The size, the sound, everything is just totally overwhelming. Also, apparently, if you go in the spring or summer you can walk down the path visible in the above photo which is sadly closed during the winter as the waterfall spray basically has it iced over 24/7. But, whatever. After seeing everything Gullfoss had to show us we walked up a winding set of stairs to a restaurant that overlooked the whole thing that specialized in traditional Icelandic meat soup which didn’t seem to have a more interesting name than that.
It was a basic thin soup of lamb, potatoes, carrots, onions, and some other unidentifiable starchy vegetable. It was pretty plain, but totally hit the spot, especially with how cold my feet (still) were from the initial soaking at Þingvellir. I made it rain at their gift shop, and once again we all piled back on to the bus to head to Haukadalur. I’ve never seen an actual geyser before, and was totally excited to see one that was active enough to go off every 5-10 minutes.
The park was loaded with these steaming volcanic pools, and it was incredible how they were all so different. Some were bubbling constantly, others flowed in and out, and then pools like the above one were so eerily still that you could see deep down into the system of caves that make the whole geyser system work.
The whole area smelled of sulfur, and while you couldn’t get close enough to put your hand in the actual pools, you could feel the runoff which was still almost too hot to touch. After walking around for a while, we took our positions at the Strokkur geyser for its scheduled explosion. A few moments later, and…
I’ve never seen anything like this before, it was awesome. What was hilarious about the whole thing though was that there were so many people essentially watching the geyser through their iPads as they shot video and/or photos. So, I had Jared take a photo of me taking a photo with my iPad like all the other idiots there.
We wandered around a bit more, and saw a few other miniature geysers, although none were anywhere near as impressive as Strokkur.
Surprisingly enough, Haukadalur terminates at yet another gift shop, which seemed to sell the exact same thing as the previous gift shop. Once again, back on the bus, we headed to the Blue Lagoon, which as I understand it is Iceland’s premiere spa location.
The water there is this weird milky blue while totally opaque. It apparently has all sorts of health benefits, but I was just interested in bathing in a volcanic pool, which is exactly what we did. It was a ridiculously cool experience, as the air outside was freezing cold (and even filled with rain and freezing rain at times) but the water was nice and warm. After an incredibly quick run from the locker rooms to the pool, Jared and I were bobbing around in style.
Our hair is all crazy because the minerals in the water almost instantly turns your hair totally stiff. We were warned about it, and decided it sounded too silly to not try. The mixture of the cold air and hot water was just fantastic, and we were really at a loss as to how the whole situation could be improved at all. That is, until we discovered that there also happens to be a bar that’s actually in the pool.
So, the answer to the question of “What could possibly make floating in the waters of the Blue Lagoon any better?” is, “Add beer and ice cream.”
I mean, of course, it only makes too much sense.