Iceland – January 2020

Arriving into Reykjavik on a tour we booked through Gate 1, a day late due to high winds in Iceland, no planes flying in or out, cutting our four nights down to three, we hoped to make the best of our time there.  Our flight arrived at about 6:00 am and the shuttle promptly to us to our hotel Klettur; a cute hotel located in the center of the town.  Because of being a day behind our leisure day exploring the city was changed.  We had enough time to get some breakfast and board the bus to the Blue Lagoon.  The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most popular tourist attraction.  The spa is located in a lava field near Grindavik and Reykjanes Peninsula.  The blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa with temperatures approximately 100 degrees year-round.  Once there, we got our bathing suits on and made our way to the Lagoon.  Outside temperatures were in the upper 20’s so we made a mad dash to the water.  We had purchased the Comfort Experience which included; towel, one drink from the bar and one Silica Mud Mask (guaranteed to make us look 20 years younger…just kidding) but it did make your skin feel really good.  The water was wonderful and the swim up bar had a lot of choices, it even began to snow lightly, which made it even more of a memorable experience.  After returning from the Lagoon, our city tour was rescheduled from the day before.  On our tour we stopped at the Northern Lights Center and learned more about what causes the Aurora Borealis and what conditions were best for viewing.  We also learned how to adjust our cameras for the best shots, we were excited to go out later and get the postcard shot.  Well, unfortunately it clouded over and started to snow, so there would be no trip tonight to get the perfect shot.  We were hopeful, we had two more nights to get the perfect shot.  After our tour we headed to the main shopping are for dinner.  We stopped in the Hlemmur, which was kinda a food court you might say.  We pulled up a bar seat at Skal and ordered the Mussels and Grilled Sourdough bread.  The bread was so delicious we ordered more.  After dinner we walked down the street to the Irishman Pub and enjoyed the local beer “Gull”, not too bad, in fact on our walk back to the hotel we stopped into a market and picked up two more.  The next morning, we were scheduled to take the Golden Circle Tour which included Thingvellir National Park, Strokkur Geyser and the very large Gullfloss waterfall which we were so excited to see.  The weather was cooperating while at the Thingvellir National Park; it’s a site of historical, cultural and geological significance.  The park lies in the rift valley and is the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.  Next, we continued on to the Strokkur Geyser; which is located in a geothermal area near the Hvita River.  The Geyser typically erupts every 6-10 minutes.  It was fun to watch it get ready to erupt.  However, growing up around Old Faithful in Yellowstone it wasn’t as impressive as Old Faithful.  After eating lunch, we traveled to the highly anticipated Gullfloss waterfall, I was so excited to get the spectacular photos of the waterfall.  Well luck was not on our side again; the wind was blowing so hard and the snow going sideways when we arrived.  We told ourselves, we are getting a picture of this waterfall and we will brave the elements.  What an adventure, just walking out to the viewing deck was an adventure in itself with the wind blowing between 50-70 mph and the snow hitting you in the face like needles.  Well we laughed and with our backs to the waterfall, we got the camera ready to turn around and shoot a picture of the waterfall we hoped to see.   Whoa….epic fail, you could hardly open your eyes to see what you were aiming your camera at.  Not much of the waterfall was captured with the first attempt. Our next attempts were not much better, so again know postcard shots of the waterfall, darn it.  It was so cold on the lookout deck, we decided we just need to come back maybe in September to get a good shot of it, so we laughed and headed back to the bus.  At least we had the Northern lights trip to look forward in the evening.  Arriving back in town we had time to get dinner before going out to the Northern lights, so back to Skal for another delicious meal. This night we had the Spicy Pork Cheeks again it did not disappoint and of course we ordered more of the grilled sourdough bread.  After dinner we returned to the hotel to get all our layers of clothes back on so we could stand outside for about two hours to wait and take pictures of the Northern Lights.  After driving about an hour, we arrived at the viewing location, our guide was a physics teacher but told us a lot about the stars and made sure our cameras were ready for the perfect shot.  The skies were clear and we were hopeful, well after standing outside in the cold for about an hour, nothing was happening.  Our guide used his green laser pointer, and we all set our camera on time lapse as he waved his laser pointer off in the distance so we could at least get a green hue in the distance shot.  We laughed and played along, well the picture looked like a squiggly laser pointer against the mountain.  Well we had more night to try to see the lights tomorrow so we crossed our fingers.  Our last day we were scheduled for the Southcoast tour.  In January in Iceland you have only about 6 hours of daylight so our days adventure we left in the dark, sunrise is 10:30 am and sunset at about 4:30 pm.  Heading out of Reykjavik we started up this mountain pass with strong winds and snow packed roads, a little unusual to me not having the roads plowed, the opposite lanes completely covered, couldn’t even tell where the road was, but maybe Icelanders are use to that.  Our guide mentioned that the strong winds have sometimes blown buses off the road…oh great I thought, but we made it over the pass. Our first stop was Skogafoss Waterfall; the waterfall used to sit on the coastline, but the coastline has receded about 3 miles.  The waterfall is about 200 feet tall, it was quite impressive. Next, we made our way to the Black sand beach, a beach that rises from volcanic ashes, it occurs when the hot lava hits the sea water. The lava cools down so rapidly that it breaks into debris and sand instantly.  The next stop was the town of Vik for a lunch stop.  After lunch we continued to another black sand beach known as Reynisfjara which is also lined with hexagonal basalt cliff walls.  The waves were so impressive to watch and the sun was starting on its way down, which made for awesome pictures.  After gathering some black sand to take home we boarded the bus to head to the Solheimajokull Glacier.  Very impressive and relatively easy to get to.  You could see another tour group that was hiking on the glacier, that would have been cool. Our last stop was Seljalandsfoss Waterfall a very impressive 197-foot waterfall coming from the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajokull (you try and pronounce that).  After snapping a few pictures, it was time to head back to town and try one more time to see the northern lights, we were sure it was going to happen tonight. I believe the bus driver mentioned it was about an hour and half back to town, the sun had set and so we got comfortable and thought about a little nap to prepare for tonight’s adventure. About an hour into the drive the bus was making a funny noise, like when in the states you veer a little off the road and it makes that funny thumping sound, the driver advised us that sticks had blown into the road due to the high wind, we were back on that mountain pass that we were on in the morning.  Well we were awake now, so we discussed running and getting a bite to eat when we got back to the hotel before heading out for the lights.  A few minutes later, my husband said it felt like the bus driver was going a little fast for the road conditions, he hardly got those words out of his mouth and you could feel the strong wind take control of our bus, the driver was fighting the condition but lost.  The wind blew our bus off the highway, sliding off the road, not knowing what was out that side of the highway.  We came to rest about 40 feet off the road, still upright but at quit and angle.  The guide made sure everyone was ok and said no one move until the rescue crew arrived because we could tip over.  Oh, you can bet I wasn’t going to move.  In Iceland they don’t have actual policeman, fireman, etc. they just have volunteers.  The tour guide advised that a text went out to 300 people and we would have help soon and a new bus would come to pick us up.  Well about 45 minutes later a new bus arrived along with many volunteer rescue people.  They were able to get the front door open most of the way for us to get out, and had the people get off in twos with the down side of the bus first.  Well lucky we were going to be one of the last people off…great (not).  We patiently waited for our turn to get off.  The rescue crew helped the women up the hill to the new bus.  Once everyone was aboard the new bus we continued into town, being only about 10 miles from town, go figure.  Of course, we arrived at the hotel late just as the bus was picking people up for that’s night northern lights tour.  My husband and I looked at each other and said,” nope, I am not getting on another bus to go see lights”, we went for beer instead.  We made our last stop at Skal again for dinner and enjoyed Stripsteak and of course more grilled sourdough, and finished our night back at the Irishman Pub.  Come to find out they didn’t see the northern lights again, so it was okay that we didn’t go.  Iceland is definitely a Bucket List trip and I would definitely love to go back again, maybe when its warmer.  Iceland only has a population of about 340,000 people, but what lucky people they are to get to enjoy such a beautiful country.  We will be back to see those Northern lights and the Gullfloss waterfall under better conditions.