Jurassic. Prehistoric. Serene. Wild.
Iceland should be on everyone’s bucket list. Even if you only go once, it’s just so different from any place I’ve traveled.
If you’re wondering if there’s anything for you here is what’s covered: Golden Circle, Gullfoss, Thingvellir, Strokkir Geysir, Reykjavik, whale watching, horseback riding, Vik and the Black Beach, Kerið Crater, almost a glacier, Seljalandsfoss, and Skogafoss. Not included in this post is Silfra and the Blue Lagoon.
Flying in to Reykjavik at 11:50pm. Love that midnight sun!
We spent our trip exploring the southwest area of Iceland, best known as the ‘Golden Circle‘. I took a LOT of photos, so here are only a handful picked out from the hundreds of photos I took on this trip.
Day Trip: The Golden Circle
THINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK
This was the first stop on our self guided day trip. The park was nice for some photo taking and to get a break from the drive. If you want to hike around you could spend more time here, but 1-2 hours will suffice. Heck you could even just stop for 15 minutes to stretch your legs and snap a few photos.
I went in July and even though it was summer it was still chilly (around low 50’s to low 70’s). This was fantastic for me since heat is my nemesis and Germany was boiling at the time.
Driving Tip: The roads are very easy to navigate and there are a lot of pull off’s if you want to go down an unmarked road. While they say you must have a large 4×4 to get around, if you’re just doing the Golden Circle you do not need this. All the main roads are paved. I would save the money and get a smaller, less expensive car.
On the first day with our giant Dodge Durango we took some random side road to the end. It was a heavy gravel road and at the end we decided to climb a trail. As we were climbing up a small trail we started to smell a strong foul odor that was getting worse and worse. We discovered the smell was from wild goats in a cave nearby. Oh the things you stumble upon in Iceland!
This waterfall is a MUST SEE. It’s HUGE. And if you’re into photography don’t leave your tripod at home like I did! This place just looks Jurassic. And powerful. And loud. Also, bring a lot of rain gear because the mist that comes off of these waterfalls will leave you soaked.
Below: Up on the hill to the right are people. That’s how big this thing is!
Fun Fact: All along our drive we would see steam coming out of the ground. Seriously, it was nuts. I’d never seen anything like it. We would be driving along the road and nearby was steam finding it’s way out of the ground. In Iceland this is converted to renewable energy and used in a variety of ways.
The Strokkir Geysir was a sight to see. This geysir goes off every few minutes. We were there for about 20 minutes watching and in that time it went off 3 times. In the picture below you can see it boiling up getting ready to go off.
Kerið – Crater
The crater was worth the stop as we were able to walk down a steep path right to it. Everyone started skipping rocks across and eventually the ground started bubbling. Which was unexpected…and I think our cue to leave.
Note: There is a fee to see the crater.
On day two with the car we wanted to head south and check out Vik, more waterfalls, and try to find a glacier.
In Vik my husband and friends somehow managed to convince me to drive on an incredibly steep grade up a mountain. I actually read somewhere that this is the steepest road in Iceland. I will take their word for it because I was terrified.
At one point I was almost certain the Dodge Durango was going to tip sideways down the mountain. It was worth it for the views at the top but I never want to do that again.
Then we went to the famous black sand beach near Vik. I didn’t realize (aside from the name) that the black sand was on the must-see list. While the sand was cool to see (although admittedly I didn’t really pay attention to it) I was more interested in the basalt columns and the rocky formations out on the ocean (Reynisdrangar).
BLACK SAND BEACHES
SEARCH FOR A GLACIER
So then we wanted to try to find the glacier we had seen on the main road to Vik. We turned down a road that had some crazy long name of a glacier written on it thinking we were heading in the right direction.
We were trying to go to Myrdalsjokull. So we drove and drove.
Then we hit the end of the main road and it turned into a dirt road with warning signs to stop.
So we continued. Naturally.
Then the fog started and became increasingly heavier and heavier. And we continued.
Then the road turned into gigantic rocks that started bottoming out the car. It was here that I decided we wouldn’t continue. Did I mention I was driving this whole time? We got out and thought we’d reached the base of the glacier. We couldn’t really see anything though so we jumped out and ran to the white stuff. After a few minutes (and a few snowball fights) we came to the conclusion that this was just snow. We’re smart. Nonetheless it was a fun little adventure.
It was incredibly quiet up there. Iceland is a really quiet place in general, if you ever want solitude and to be alone this is probably one of the best places in the world for it.
I call this our band cover photo…
This waterfall is close to Skogafoss and well worth a stop. Being able to walk all around and behind the waterfall is a unique experience you shouldn’t miss.
This waterfall is enormous. Just look at how small my husband is compared to the mammoth waterfall in the background.
The guys wanted to get close to the waterfall so they ran up to it. They were running because at this point the mist blowing off of it was getting us all soaked so they were trying to hurry. Once they started getting closer the ground became really slippery. Our friend ended up slipping and in the fall he broke his phone. It’s dangerous here people! Phones can break!
Whale Watching Tour
We saw puffins, dolphins, and whales feeding.
Look! A whale!
The horseback riding tour was fun. It was pretty mellow as I did the beginner tour. We trotted along in a line with the other horses through some trails. I wouldn’t say this was the most exciting part of our trip but it was still a good time.
The horses themselves were really interesting. Unbeknownst to me, Icelandic horses are different from other horses around the world. They have five gaits (most horses only have three or four). The additional gaits are the Tölt and the Pace. These horses also don’t have disease, so to avoid introducing diseases horses cannot be imported into Iceland. Icelandic horses can leave Iceland, but once they leave they cannot return.
More information can be found at this website: https://www.icelandics.org/gaits.php
Reykjavik isn’t the prettiest city I’ve ever visited. It almost reminds me of a fishing town in Alaska (but much much bigger). It’s interesting but if you are visiting Iceland I don’t recommend spending a lot of time in the city. It is, however, a good base for day trips.
So this, my friends, is a children’s playground.
The craziest church I’ve ever seen.
Skyline from the boat tour. I think the church and the glass building were the tallest in the entire country.
One of many of the famous hot dog stands. They are as good as people claim!
The main area of town. There are lots of bars, restaurants, shops, etc.
I didn’t know this until we arrived, but whaling and eating whale is legal in Iceland.
We also went to the Blue Lagoon and went snorkeling in Silfra. Both were AMAZING and I highly recommend them! I’ll save those posts for another day as I think this is long enough.
Have you been to Iceland?
Where did you go and what was your favorite thing to do?