We were hoping to do some independent driving around today but Iceland's weather had other plans! We woke up to pouring rain, fog, and very strong winds. We enjoyed a leisurely morning at the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica before heading into Reykjavik.
We decided to go souvenir shopping even though we knew we were going to get completely soaked thanks to the rain. Some of our favorites were Brennin (alcohol), Rhubarb (alcohol), Icelandic Sea Salt, Glass Coasters, Jams (my fav being Rhubarb with vanilla), and of course Lava Rocks. The biggest disappointment is the fact that you can find plenty of photographs online of the Northern Lights in Iceland however you can't buy a good photograph in Iceland. We went to at least 5 different stores and each store carried the same photographs by the same photographer. In addition to this they were over priced for a mediocre print.
The highlight of our day was lunch!! We walked over to Baejarins Beztu Pylsur for Hot Dogs! I think you either love these hot dogs or don't see the point to them. We loved them! You have a layer of flavors and textures. From bottom to top you have a soft bun, ketchup, fried onions, a traditional hot dog, a mayonnaise sauce, a mustard sauce, and raw onions. Perfection!!!
After lunch we drove to the airport for our flight home. What a difference a day can make. We didn't really recognize the ride to the airport. Today everything was wet, dark, and coastal. When we drove out everything looked like an ice tundra.
We checked in for our flight, dropped off our bags, and called home for a quick chat. We made our way through security and immigrations. We boarded our flight (which is more like a cattle call due to everyone being let on at once), enjoyed a movie and a bottle of water and were home before we knew it.
We really loved seeing Iceland even though it was just for the weekend. Both Greg and I are dying to go back in the warmer months to see the vast difference in appearance. A trip to Iceland is highly recommended from us!
Even though we went to bed at 2 in the morning we were up dressed and waiting in the lobby at 8 am for our pick up. We were surprised this morning with snow on the ground! It wasn't in the forecast but the weather in Iceland has a mind of it's own. Shortly after 8 Albert from GeoIceland arrived for us. We were the first ones on the bus - yay we get our pick of seats! We then drove through Reykjavik to the other hotels for our tour mates.
Albert is a friendly, dry humored, intelligent, and accommodating tour guide. I am again impressed with the staff from GeoIceland. We drove for over an hour and made a pit stop at a travel stop (gas, restaurant, restrooms). Apparently there were a lot of tourists heading south today because this place was packed!!
Albert allowed us to request a ton of stops along the way for pictures even though it slightly delayed us in dropping off the passengers who were going ice climbing. We finally made it to Solheimajokull Glacier. Those of us not going on the full ice climbing portion still got to walk out a bit onto the Glacier, "hug" the glacier, and take lots of pictures.
I can not truly express how cool it was to walk on a Glacier. Definitely one of my top 5 favorite things I've done so far in life!
Our 3rd stop was to Vik. We stopped at a gas station/restaurant. Across the lot was a store that sold wool products and various souvenirs. Greg and I headed to the wool store. With my allergy and the remote location I wasn't even going to attempt to eat lunch. Ever since learned of my food allergy I always keep a bar and /or snacks with me.
After the lunch stop we drove down the road a short way to view the sea stacks. We then drove to the opposite side of the stacks to Reynisfjara Beach. The beach is a black rock beach with amazing cliffs, and Halsanefshellir (a ocean carved cave).
Sadly we were pretty fogged in so the pictures from this area aren't terrific. It was also quite cold from the wind and the rain and well, I'm a wimp lol.
Next on this amazing adventure was a stop at Skogafoss Waterfall. Here you can take pictures from the ground but also can climb the many steps up to the top of the waterfall. We decided to do both. Again here I am freezing, wet, climbing lots of stairs but somehow having fun! I am dying to visit Iceland in the summer now! The waterfalls and landscapes are beyond unique in winter but the must be breathtaking in summer! Before moving on we drove up the road for a second to the Skogar Folk Museum to take a quick peek at Turf Houses. I don't know if someone asked for this or Albert thought we should see it but I was psyched! I had read about Turf Houses online and hoped to see one but didn't think we'd get the chance to. At this point this day couldn't get any better right?
Our 5th stop was a little surprise and so much fun!! We drove to a private farm and were able to feed Iceland Horses!! The tricky part was avoiding the "droppings" that were literally everywhere you tried to walk. These horses were beautiful, friendly, and very photogenic. We all got to feed them a few bites of white bread. Naturally some of the horses wanted more and would follow us around. Absolutely adorable!!
The last stop of the day was to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. Of course this is another beautiful waterfall but this was my biggest disappointment. At Seljalandsfoss you are able to walk behind the waterfall and all the way around the waterfall. How cool right?! Unfortunately, I was freezing cold, completely wet, and the path was covered in ice. I slipped and almost fell on the first steps to behind the waterfall. Needless to say I turned around and just enjoyed the beauty.
Heading back to Reykjavik made me think of how crazy the weather in Iceland truly can be. Yesterday it was cold but sunny and clear. This morning we woke to snow in Reykjavik, mid-morning it was sunny and dry, mid-afternoon it was cloudy and raining and now it was blizzard conditions! Naturally Greg got thought I was weird again because I apparently slept through the bus sliding on the road in the snowy conditions and yet I freak out over flying lately. I don't try to explain myself lol.
We were the first to be dropped off and we thanked Albert and said farewell to everyone we traveled with today. At this point we were exhausted and in need of hot showers. We decided to settle in and order room service from the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. Again the service not so friendly but the food was delicious. For our full review of the Hilton visit here.
Oh yeah ....the weather in Reykjavik that evening had melted the snow but was now raining lol! Crazy!
Today we booked a Golden Circle Tour. I'm so happy that we decided to go with GeoIceland!
Our guide must have been early because we were in the lobby at 8:30 and he wasn't there. A little after 9 am he arrived and explained that he came to our hotel first and when he didn't see us he went and picked up the rest of the group. We were in a mid-size tour van that was nice and clean.
Herman (sp) is a bubbly, outgoing and humorous guide! In addition to this he is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about Geology and Iceland. The first part of our tour was driving through Reykjavik and the outer neighborhoods (including where he lives). This was to show us the average Icelandic homes etc.
Our first stop was at a Travel Plaza (restaurant, restrooms, gas, etc.). Inside is a large map of Iceland and the surrounding oceans. Herman began organizing and maneuvering us to teach us about Geology and how Iceland was created. This was very informative, very funny, and a tad awkward as we were arm in arm with strangers lol. At first Greg and I were questioning this tour. Saying "What did we get ourselves into." Is this a tour of the Natural Beauty of Iceland or a H.S. Geology class. In the end we realized it's both and so much more!!!
Yes we learned about Tectonic Plates, how many types of rivers there are in Iceland, how to pronounce Eyjafjallajokull but we also got to experience the places these events occurred.
Our next stop was Faxi Waterfall. It's a pretty stop but definitely pails in comparison to later stops.
Our 3rd stop was at Gulfoss Waterfall. Luckily we packed ice walkers for this trip because if we hadn't I would have been slipping and sliding all over the place!! We had time to view this incredible waterfalls from several different vantage points. It was beautiful but I have a feeling it's true beauty comes out in warmer months.
The next stop was The Geysir hot spring and Haukadalur geothermal area. This was the only small complaint I have against GeoIceland and it is small. We weren't told that there would be a fee to get into this area. There are multiple steam pockets, hot springs, and the Great Geysir. The area is gorgeous and intriguing!!!
Below is a slideshow of the Geysir
Next up was Thingvellir National Park. This is the spot with Iceland's Parliament was established. This area is also broken up by the Mid Atlantic Ridge which separates the North American Tectonic Plate and the Eurasian Tectonic Plate. As you walk towards Parliament you cross over one of the most beautiful streams you will ever see. The water is crystal clear and is also the most beautiful turquoise. It's insanely beautiful!
We also got to walk further up the path to a wonderful look out area before re-boarding the bus.
Herman also made sure to stop along the way for plenty of photo's. Including some that he would get boisterous about since the weather was so perfect and the views were beyond clear lol. During out ride Herman would sing us some Bjork, tell us some jokes, and then tell us one of the most outrageous and yet true stories!
We were told about Elves that live inside of a rock in a neighborhood near Reykjavik. Construction workers were trying to make a two lane road in this neighborhood. Oddly every time they began work their machines would just stop working. Eventually they asked a woman who can speak with Elves to come and help them. The woman explained that the Elves didn't want a two lane road but would be willing to compromise with a one lane road.
To prove that he wasn't lying to us Herman drove us to that neighborhood. Sure enough there was a two lane road that came down to just one lane. Next to that one lane was a giant rock. A large plaque was place nearby telling the same story. Herman even went one step further and stopped a local boy who was walking by. Needless to say the boy confirmed the story!!
We were the first of our group to be dropped off. When we stepped out of the bus we both agreed that this was truly an amazing day!
We hurried into our room at the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. Then ran down to Vox restaurant for our dinner reservation. For those reviews visit here.
That evening we had a Northern Lights Tour booked with Iceland Offroad. Our experience with a Northern Lights Tour wasn't as great as it could have been but I feel that the response we got from the company was pretty good. Because of their response we would go on another tour with them.
Our tour was originally scheduled for a Friday night. Unfortunately the weather wasn't great. Iceland Offroad stayed in contact with us via email and eventually moved it to Saturday night. Saturday night we were picked up and met with 3 other cars. We didn't end up seeing the Northern Lights (not their fault), we didn't receive any help with our camera, we didn't have a guide with a camera, and we didn't get any hot beverages. We also weren't offered another tour since we didn't see the Lights (I guess we should have been more vocal and asked about this).
When we got home we emailed the company and explained about our tour. I was speaking with Stefan and in the end I was happy with the response. Stefan explained that unfortunately mistakes happen, he spoke with his staff about this occurrence, and did offer us a refund. In my opinion I think it was they were just a bit overwhelmed with the amount of people on this evenings tour. We weren't looking for (and chose not to accept) a refund because while things weren't perfect we did go out and did enjoy a lovely night under the stars. We wanted to tell them our story and hopefully get an understanding response from Iceland Offroad. In the end that's exactly what we got so we would still recommend them to our friends.
For some strange reason I have now become a very nervous flyer. Yes, a thousand hours flying around the world and all of the sudden I'm a scaredy cat! Before heading to Iceland I spoke with my Dr. about this and she prescribed me Lorazepam. We arrived at the airport a little to early so checking in with Icelandair was a breeze. Security on the other hand was a pretty long line.
I was impressed with Icelandair over all. The price was great, the staff were friendly and efficient, the plane was clean and offered each seat a tv screen, and the flight itself was fast. The only downfall is the fact that the seats aren't that comfortable.
2 Lorazepams later and I was asleep. We landed around 6:30 am and easily made our way through customs, baggage, and over to the Hertz counter. After hearing lots of pricey stories when it came to rental cars we opted to add some extra insurance to our reservation. All rental companies check the cars for dents and scratches but in Iceland it's taken to a whole new level. The mark every single tiny scratch or dent and will thoroughly check the car for new ones when you return. Even to the point they will look under the car for damage for going off the paved roads in Iceland.
We put all of our stuff into our Yaris and headed to the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. A gorgeous sunrise over snowy mountains welcomed us to Iceland.
We parked our car in the construction zone which was once the parking lot of the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica and went to check in. For our full review of the hotel visit HERE.
We drove into town and wandered around the harbor finally stopping for a coffee and some breakfast. After breakfast we found a small grocery store. We went into the grocery store for some waters but ended up finding some cool foodie gifts from Iceland. We bought some moss tea, Icelandic sea salt, an Iceland Hangover cure, and some chocolates.
For lunch we decided to try Icelandic Fish and Chips. We were glad we did! For the full review visit HERE. When we booked our trip to Iceland we had mixed feelings considering the country allows Whaling. We decided that the best we can do is help support the country with money from tourism but not visit any establishments that support Whaling or that serves Whale Meat. Icelandic Fish and Chips proudly shows their support of Whales with a Whale Friendly sticker!
We had planned on a Northern Lights tour for this evening with Iceland Offroad. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't great. Iceland Offroad emailed us throughout the day with updates of the tour. In the end the tour got moved to the next night. With that in mind we decided to book a fun dinner in town at K-Bar.
K-Bar was severely disappointing! For our full review visit HERE.
After dinner it was definitely time for some sleep! We have an early tour with GeoIceland in the morning!