Iceland Part One

Day 1 - Arrive to Reykjavik, Happy Campers, Estadlur, Geyser Strokkur, Selfoss
Day 2 - Keri Crater, Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Solheimasandur, Halldorskaffi, Skaftafell

I have been contemplating the best way to share the magnitude of content I have without completely overwhelming anyone. Without a doubt this meant splitting our trip into a few posts, or a series, if you will. I'm not sure I even have the capacity to relive all eight (ten with travel), crazy-amazing, vastly-different days at once. Just opening my photos from Day 1 has me breathless. It really was just that incredible!

So here we go.... part one of this series consists of our first two days in Iceland. These were two wonderfully eventful days, spent entirely in the south quarter of Iceland. 

We used miles to meet in Toronto, James from St. John's and me from Houston. Then, together, we flew WOW Air to Reykjavik. We'd heard mixed things about WOW Air. For starters, they lure you in with cheap fares and then tack on a bunch of fees including extravagant baggage fees. So just be aware when doing cost comparison for flights. This still ended up being the best budget option for us. Contrary to popular occurrence, all our flights ran on time, which made the long day less stressful. I did, however, wash my hair in the airport bathroom upon arriving at KEF, unsure of when our next shower would be. That's because we decided to navigate the majority of our way around Iceland in a camper van! 

The decision to cram ourselves and all our necessities into a maximum of thirty square feet was actually an easy one. Traveling in our Happy Campers van reduced pressure to be in any certain place at a specific time. Since Iceland has much to offer all the way around the country we did not want to limit ourselves to venture in and out of one location. We did learn that travelling this way comes with its own set of risks. I'll get into the obstacles we experienced in a later post. Even with a couple blunders, I would not have traveled any other way. Of course, in choosing a condensed and rugged means of temporary living, you must also carefully consider your travel companion. 

Spirits high, or maybe we were just delirious from a full day of flying, we hit the ground running. We landed at 5 a.m. the following day, but couldn't pick up our camper until 8 a.m. This gave us about three hours to get booze from the Duty Free (DO THIS!! as it's so expensive elsewhere), get through customs, wash my hair, and have some coffee at the airport. KEF should charge a cover for it's 24/7 club-like atmosphere, which aided in keeping us alert. 

Loaded up in the van, we found a Bonus grocery store to stock up on food and took off around the Golden Circle. Hours into our voyage we arrived at our first excursion, snorkeling the Silfra Fissure. We booked our tour through Arctic Adventures. They picked us up, fitted us with dry suits and guided us through the coldest and clearest water I've ever encountered. About 35 degree Fahrenheit. There's no filter on my camera in this video. This is exactly what we saw underwater! 

Snorkeling the Silfra Fissure, in between the U.S. and European tectonic plates. 

We finished around lunch time, having worked up a considerable appetite trying to keep our body temperatures regulated. Online I found a recommendation for a farm to table burger and ice cream joint, Efstdalur, that blew both of us away. Unlike a Houston farm-to-table, we were literally on the farm, within view of the cows. The dairy farm was stationed directly below the main dining room, inside the ice cream parlor! 

On our way to Geyser Strokkur we stumbled upon our first group of Icelandic horses! I am not sure why I was afraid we might go the entire trip without seeing these beauties. In actuality we saw them all along our journey, stopping multiple times. We'd see one of an interesting color or some being particularly cute and have to pull over. In addition to their short stature, it's that luxurious hair that makes these ponies so photogenic. I wanted to stop just about every time, but it could have added another three days to our travel time.

We made it to the geyser in rainy conditions. Adding rain to thirty degree temperatures meant adding a few layers to our outfits of the day. So we bulked up and walked the path to a number of geysers, waiting out their explosions. We made it to the largest one, that was said to erupt every 15 minutes, but was more active that day. It erupted closer to every five minutes. Shortly after catching this detonation, as we were walking to the car, a momentous and tumultuous geyser sprung towards space. Everyone in the area gasped and cheered. It must have been one of the largest in a while.   

After the geyser we made it to our first major waterfall. Gullfoss. I think this was one of the most magnificent of the waterfalls we visited. The water gushed ferociously and the coloring was intense. We could barely hear each other over the pounding of the water over the edge.


And all of that was in a day's travel. We made our way to the Selfoss campsite where we had a brief moment of panic when we miscalculated the exchange rate and for a couple of minutes thought we paid $280 to stay the night instead of $28. We were thankful for the hot showers, but not that thankful! We used the kitchen to do some food prep and then we were off for day two. Stopping at a cafe, spur of the moment, because it looked cute from the outside. We were very happy we dropped in. The pastries were delectable!

We backtracked about fifteen minutes, back up the Golden Circle, to see the Kerid Crater. We'd passed it on our way to Selfoss, but it was too dark to stop. Kerid is a volcanic crater, about 3,000 years old, making it young for a crater. Pictures of it in the summer, the blue water against green cliffs, are beautiful. However, covered in snow gave the impression of destruction. 

Two more waterfalls, one including a fierce rainbow made our afternoon. The Seljalandsfoss is unique in that under good conditions you can actually walk behind it. The path was iced over when we visited, making it impassible. We watched a number of people take painful-looking falls and decided not to attempt it. 

The Skogafoss is where we were graced by the rainbow. We took a steep hike to reach above the waterfall, where we could get a glimpse from atop the rainbow. I don't think I've previously seen a rainbow from above. The streaks of colors stunned against the rushing waters.

Solheimasandur is the site of an abandoned U.S. military plane. I'd read that the hike to discover it is a lenthy one and can confirm this. From the road it appears the beach is a short distance, but it is a deceptive image. We walked and walked, convinced the further along the path we made it the longer the path grew.  Alas we arrived.

I'm envious of the photos people manage to capture with the plane literally abandoned, without other visitors. We were not that fortunate, but rather than wait around, we took advantage of the truly magnificent and deserted black sand beaches only a slight stretch from the site of the plane. 

After soaking up this gorgeous and rare sunny day we hopped back in our camper, dubbed Oli, to have pizza and beer at Halldorskaffi in Vik. We retired for the evening at the Skaftafell campsite.  

Two days. All of this in just two days. Leave comments or any questions! I'll be working to get part two of this Iceland series out soon! 

TravelLyndsay Cavanagh