Otherworldly nature at it’s best. I loved Iceland. The only disappointment I had about Iceland is that I did not stay longer.
On our way to Europe, we opted to fly on Icelandair and add a stop over in Iceland. Truly, Iceland deserves more than just a stop over and I am already planning my next trip.
Day 1: Seattle to the Ion Adventure Hotel via Reykjavik
At around mid-night Seattle time, we watched the sunrise over the airport in Iceland as we approached for landing.
I was immediately struck by the geography – I am not sure that I had an expectation but this was not it.
If you are flying to Iceland, don’t expect to land on an “ice covered” tarmac. When the Vikings landed they found an island covered with green trees from shore to mountaintops. The original Vikings were afraid that their enemies from Norway would pursue them, so they sent word back that they had found a land covered in ice. To deceive them further, they said that another more distant land that was indeed covered in ice was an inhabitable green land. So the icy land became Greenland – the green island became Iceland. Don’t expect to see many trees these days; the Vikings cleared most of the Iceland forests to use the wood.
Upon landing we knew we had to stay awake, so we got in our rental car (two thumbs up Orange Rental Car agency) and headed to Reykjavik in search of a coffee shop.
We waited outside for the Reykjavik Roasters to open. They love their coffee in Iceland and I even found a gluten free treat.
We took a little stroll around Reykjavik – I loved the simplicity and durability of the architecture.
Even though all I wanted to do was crawl in bed, we drove up to Thingvellir National Park. I didn’t appreciate enough that we were walking through the fissure of the continental divide caused by the shifting of the American and Eurasian tectonic plates, aka mid-Atlantic rift. It is the only place in the world where the rift is above sea level. You can literally see both sides pushing up and against each other, much like two countries fighting for territory.
This is also the location of the original parliament of Iceland in 930 AD. It is also where they adopted Christianity in 1000 AD and declared independence from Denmark in 1944.
Next stop was the Ion Adventure Hotel, our home for a couple of nights. Located in the middle of nowhere, the drive to reach the hotel was along a beautiful thin curvy road that skirted a lake.
We loved this hotel from the moment we walked in and were greeted with complimentary champagne.
The rooms were small and “rustic” but clean and cozy with nice hot showers. And where else can you have pre-dinner cocktails in a Northern Lights lounge. And the food, wow, so good.
After being awake for 30 hours, we sleep like babies that night.
Day 2: Blue Lagoon Rest and Relaxation
We are pretty adventurous travelers, but we wanted to build as much rest as possible into this trip, so we decided on a leisurely afternoon at The Blue Lagoon – one of the 25 wonders of the world.
The Blue Lagoon is in the southwest part of Iceland. This is a barren part of Iceland, covered with lava fields, as the mid-Atlantic ridge comes ashore here. The strata in this area are 100 – 200 THOUSAND years old.
Be sure to make time to stop at the Gunnuhver Steam Vents – this is where mud pools turn to steam as the geothermal reservoir water condenses and mixes with surface water. You could feel the pulse of the earth here.
We also experienced our first encounter with Icelandic extremes in weather as it quickly vacillated between sunshine and pouring down rain.
The afternoon was spent completely relaxing in the silica waters of the Blue Lagoon. Touristy, maybe, but don’t let that scare you away. Missing a stop here is like visiting Paris and not seeing the Eiffel tower.
While Iceland feels like a land before time, it is also amazingly high tech. Just be sure and make your reservation in advance and opt for the level that includes robes, slippers and towels. And don’t forget your swimsuit!
Nurturing is the best way to describe this experience as everything, including our jet lag, melted away. We washed with volcanic scrub and indulged in silica mud mask, drank green smoothies and quickly changed to champagne.
We spent about 2.5 hours here and emerged feeling renewed and cared for. Just lovely. As you can see, we are pretty happy!
That night we booked a tour to see the Northern Lights but it was too cloudy so we had cocktails in the Northern Lights Bar at the hotel and another satisfying meal.
Day 3 – Finding the Ice in Iceland
There is so much to do in Iceland that it was really hard to decide what to do on our one day of adventure. But we opted to stay in the area closer to the hotel and booked a snowmobile outing on Langjokull Glacier. This is the second largest glacier on Iceland.
Another beautiful drive, we were distracted by the scenery.
So distracted that we ended up making a mad dash from Husafell to the Klaki Base Camp – there are shuttles from Husafell but we missed the shuttle and, luckily, the gravel road was still clear from winter snow.
I kept looking for the glacier as we crossed the black barren volcanic field. We arrived at the base camp, not much more than a meeting area for tours and a few port-a-potties. The only way to go onto the glacier is via a super jeep or a snowmobile. We opted for the latter, but soon realized that the reason we could not see the glacier was because it was covered by a blizzard.
But a blizzard is not enough to stop the Mountaineers of Iceland! We decked out in snow suits, took a super jeep to where the snowmobiles were parked and then drove the snowmobiles up onto the glacier and to the Into the Glacier Tunnel.
It was cold, whiteout conditions with snow blowing sideways – lets just say it cured me of the lingering desire to climb a mountain.
After arriving at the Ice Cave, we traded our helmets for crampons and explored the ice tunnel.
It is a man made 1500 meters long tunnel that goes into the heart of the glacier. At the deepest, it is 90 feet below the snow level today – the rate at which it was snowing makes me guess that it gets deeper.
It was shocking to find out that this glacier will be COMPLETELY GONE in 80 to 100 years.
Emerging from the ice tunnel, we learned the blizzard was still in full force. It was a tight formation on our snowmobiles down the snowfield and back to base camp.
That evening we returned to Reykjavik and spent one night at the Alda Hotel, located on one of the main streets of Reykjavik. I loved this hotel as well – clean, simple but first class all the way. We flew out early the next morning for Scotland.
My only regret is that we did not have more time to spend in Iceland. When we return, I will be sure and schedule the Inside the Volcano Tour and will not miss the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. And, hopefully, the Northern Lights will be peak out for us!