The Blue Lagoon – Iceland

Ever since I started telling people that I was going to spend some time in Iceland over the summer, they always asked me if I had already booked my reservation for the Blue Lagoon. It is the must-do attraction for anybody visiting this country, and most people spend some time here while they are out here, and it does not disappoint.

The Blue Lagoon is a pool of this milky blue water that is heated naturally through geo-thermal tunnels that wind their ways down deep into the earth below. A gentle mist floats above the pool as the cool air from the sea blows over it. It creates the perfect environment for a long soak that cleans out the pores of your skin and relaxes you at the same time. We were supposed to go on our first full day in Iceland, but due to complications with our van rental, we had to reschedule for two weeks later. Scheduling a time is required for admittance into the Blue Lagoon. They only let a certain amount of people in every hour, and as soon as you are in, you can stay there as long as you like. But if you miss your time, you will have to try to find another one later. If you are coming out here, I would recommend booking your time as soon as you know. When we had to reschedule, there were only two times available either 8 o’clock in the morning or 8 o’clock at night, an hour before they close, so out options we limited.

We ended up taking the 8 o’clock in the morning option, and it turned out to be the best option. It did stink a little to wake up to an alarm during vacation so we could make the appointment, but considering we were the first group of tourists that were let into the Blue Lagoon, there weren’t that many people there, and it almost felt like we had the place to ourselves. By the time we left, it was a little after 10 o’clock and the place was starting to get more crowded. I would suspect that in the middle of the day, when our original appointment was, it would be really packed and the fun of wading around in warming water would be tainted with the crowds.

The Blue Lagoon has a lot more to offer than just blue water that you can lounge around in. There is a restaurant there where you can get a bite to eat if you wish. They have steam baths that you can lounge in as well if you ever tire of soaking in the unique water. There is also a bar with limited drink menu, but the selection is big enough that you should be able to find something that you would enjoy. In fact, your first drink is a part of admission, so everybody ends up at this spot at some time during their visit. There is a place where you can put a silica mask on your face to help open up the pores there. Overall, there is enough to keep anybody occupied for the couple of hours that you will want to spend there.

Even if you do not book ahead for a reservation, it is still worth the time to make your way out there. There are paths around the outside of the lagoon where you can look at the blue water, and there is even a little viewing spot that allows you to look over the pool. I will say that it is better to get in the water because it will change your perspective, especially if you have had a few days of inclement weather. It is the one place that you cannot miss if you make it out to Iceland, so book your stay there now.

The Golden Circle – Iceland

Pinvellir National Park

There are three different ways that people come out to experience Iceland. The most adventurous get a four wheel drive and dive into the interior of the island where made roads are inaccessible except for a couple of months out of the year. Others rent a camper van and travel around the Ring Road, hopping from one campsite to another. But the most common way that people experience Iceland is to find a place in Reykjavik, and go out on day trips from there. The place where most of them end up at is called the Golden Circle. It is a place where there are many sights to take in, and you can still make it back to your cozy hotel room for the night.

Kerid Crater

I’ll be honest; this was the part of Iceland that I was least excited about seeing. There was something about being among the throngs of people visiting a part of Europe that set me on edge. I have been out in the busiest parts of Europe during the summer a few times before, and there is nothing that gets under my skin more than tourists who are wandering aimlessly among a sea of other tourists who are doing the same. It makes you feel like a silver ball in an active game of pinball. You just bounce around hoping that you will land somewhere safe eventually.

Efistidalur Creamery

What I did not realize was that Iceland is a good sized country with a lot of open space, so even in the places with densely populated tourist sights, it is not as bad as some of the worst places on the main continent. Yes, there were more tourists in this part of the country than the other parts, but we were still able to drive with ease and not get into traffic jams. We were not delayed by herds of tourists trying to get their picture of the next waterfall. In short, the tourist annoyance that you might see in other parts of the world was not really here. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this part of Iceland.

The Great Geysir

There is a lot to see in the Golden Circle, and it is hard to pick and choose what the best options will be. I will admit that some of the sights are a little lackluster. Kerid Crater was a perfect example of this. Basically it is a dormant volcano that has started to fill up with water and create its own lake. It was neat to see, but the fact that they charged 400 kroner to hike up to the rim, it was not really worth the price. If you want to see a better example of this I would suggest Crater Lake in Oregon. On the other hand, the geysers out there were definitely worth the trip. They are very similar to the sulfur ponds that you can find in Yellowstone National Park except for the fact that you do not need to wait an hour for the big one to erupt. It likes to go off every four to eight minutes, and if you hang around long enough you will see it explode.

Gullfoss

I also know that Iceland is the land of waterfalls, and there is a time when you think you can’t go out and see another one, but the one in the Golden Circle, Gullfoss, is the most impressive one that I have seen since I have been out here. This is a must stop on the Golden Circle and it is only a short hike to both of the viewing points without the crowds that you would expect to find at a place like this. Keep in mind that if you go here that you will still want to wear your rain gear because you will still get a lot of spray back from the waterfall.

Another must see is Pinvellir National Park. Historically, it is a cool sight because this is where the oldest parliamentary government in the world was first established. Geologically, it is really cool because it is the only place in the world where you can see two tectonic plates butt up against each other. This is the place where the European continent runs up against the North American continent, and you can see the two plates competing against each other.

Fridheimer

There are also some pretty fun food options out in this area as well. There is the Fridheimer farm which supplies Iceland with all of its tomatoes. You get to eat in the greenhouse next to the growing tomatoes and buzzing bumble bees flying around pollinating all of the plants. Their speciality is a tomato soup with home baked bread. It is served buffet style with all of the coffee you need to warm yourself up. If you come here, you do need a reservation, but it is worth the trip out there.

There is also the Efistidilur Creamery if you are in the mood for ice cream. This is basically a dairy farm that puts together a bunch of batches of ice cream that you can try. Like most gelato places you will find in Europe, you can get one, two or three scoops, and they don’t have to be all the same. When you are done ordering, you can grab a seat next to the window where in the background the cows who supplied the dairy are eat their daily hay. It makes for the perfect atmosphere to enjoy this summery delight.

Basically, I can see why people get excited about the Golden Circle. It is a fun place to spend an afternoon or two, and though I did not like to admit it when I first got here, it is a must do when visiting Iceland. Make sure you add it to your itinerary today.

The Most Beautiful Sight in the World

Wait!

What?

I know what you are thinking. You read the title of this post and then looked at the accompanying picture. There is no way that a dreary picture of some random street with a near empty parking lot is the most beautiful sight in the world, but you need to put it in perspective.

This was the first sight I was given when I opened my window this morning after catching a few hours of sleep after a night flight, and what I see is not an empty street on a Sunday morning. What I see is the start of an adventure in a far away country.

Let me give you some context.

I spent yesterday in airports and on airplanes as I traveled from Amman, Jordan to Reykjavik, Iceland. It didn’t seem like a long day at the time. The two four-flights broken up with a quick layover in Vienna made it seem barely an inconvenience. But by the time I arrived at the airport on this cold island in the middle of the Atlantic, I could feel a change in climate and attitude. I was whisked away in a van to our hotel for the night, and barely registered what was going on because my mind was still lost in what it thought was 3 o’clock in the morning, the time I was usually in a deep sleep.

So to wake up to this sight this morning after a good night’s sleep had all the potential of what lay in store for me for the next couple of weeks. I know that I could have paid attention to it last night, and it could have had the same effect that it had on me this morning, but there were a lot of factors working against it. First, though I could still make out the terrain at midnight last night because the sun doesn’t really go down at night this far north, it was still dim enough that I could not really make out anything exciting. Also, I had just woken up from a series of ten minute naps as I tried to keep my wits about me as I was being driven to the hotel, so I wasn’t really in the mood to marvel at what lay before me. Last, my brain was in the place where it would usually be deep in R.E.M. sleep and I would be lost in a dream; how was I to know this unusual landscape wasn’t actually a dream in itself.

I needed that good night’s sleep so I could open the window this morning, and witness this picture. My heart beat faster in the excitement that I soon found myself wrapped up. There was an adventure to be had, and these was the starting point of that adventure. How could this not be the most beautiful sight in the world? Of course, there will be more spectacular sights to see along the way, but you never forget the beginning and the potential that it holds. So don’t look at this sight as something to skip over easily, but as the emotion is sparks up in the beholder, and you will find that the simplest of sights can be the most beautiful for you as well.

To those adventures we will all have this summer, and those first sights that bring them to us before we venture out on them. Keep on finding those experiences.