Iceland: Day 1

Sunday, September 11, 2016

When I heard that there was an airline that had flights out of the country from Boston for $99 I knew I had to plan a trip... no matter where that flight was taking me.

It just so happens that those flights go to Iceland.  I knew very little about the country but for that price I didn't even care.  Of course the more research I did the more I questioned why I hadn't already visited Iceland.  It was quite possibly the most fascinating country I've ever been to.

It was a night flight from Logan that arrive in Keflavik airport around 4:30 in the morning Iceland time.  I don't think the whole fly through the night - go all day thing ever gets any easier, but Josh and I have at least done it enough to know what to expect.

We took a quick shuttle ride from the airport to the Sixt rental car pick up.  I've never rented a car in the states, let alone in another country, but it was a surprisingly painless process (we would soon learn everything in Iceland was a painless process compared to at home).

From there we hit the road.  We had something like 9 hours before we could even think about checking into our hostel so we decided to do the Golden Circle first.

The Golden Circle consist of a few different sites within driving distance of Reykjavik.  It was a little over an hour from the airport to our first stop.  This drive alone gave us a taste of how unbelievable the landscape of Iceland was.  It only got more interesting the farther we got from the city, but even the drive from the airport made me feel like I was suddenly exploring the moon.  

The first stop was Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park. Þingvellir is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet and was also the site of the first parliament of Iceland (and one of the first in the world).  Despite having done a lot of research on this and every site we visited I was surprised at how... cool this place was.  I know that is not a great description, but I think I'll just end up doing what everyone else has done and try to convey an experience that can't really be put down in words.

We were the first ones to Þingvellir that morning and it was cold and drizzly so for a while we were the only ones wandering around.  I think I said a hundred times throughout the trip that I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings.  Actually the whole country reminded me a lot of New Zealand so that makes sense I guess.

From there we continue driving on to Geysir and Strokkur.  Geysir is actually where the english word geyser came from, though it's currently inactive so not very geyser like.  Luckily nearby is the spunky Strokkur.  While we were there we saw Strokkur erupt at least three times, each one different from the last.  There were also dozens of small hot springs throughout the area.  There were a lot more people at this site but it still felt like we were walking on the surface of another planet.

Our third stop of the day was Gullfoss waterfall.  We saw a lot of waterfalls during our week in Iceland but this was the most epic.  It was just massive.  We couldn't see it while walking on the path towards it, but we turned a corner and suddenly there it was.  You can almost feel the ground rumbling under your feet from the power of the water rushing by.

By this point the exhaustion was kicking in.  I had been driving most of the morning but Josh finally made me stop when I had to shake my head every 30 seconds to keep my eyes open.   He took over driving for a while, but we eventually just decided to pull over, put our seats back in the car, and take a nap.  I'm not sure if this is better or worse than the jet lagged induced nap we took in the middle of a sketchy park in London, but it was something that had to happen.

When we woke up (mainly because the car had gotten cold) we started back toward Reykjavik.  I was nervous about city driving but Reykjavik may be the smallest city I've ever been in.  I was also driving possibly the smallest car I had ever been in so it was actually pretty easy.

Oh, and as a side note for anyone who may be traveling to Iceland (or anywhere they may not have cell data) download the app before leaving and download the maps for the country you are visiting.  We used that for the entire trip and never had a problem.

We checked into our hostel at Reykjavik Hostel Village and probably could have gone to bed and slept through the night, but it was only 4pm and it was really the only time we were going to have to get to see the city.

We headed back out and walked over to Hallgrimskirkja.  This was a massive church that towered over the city.  I was able to take an elevator to the top to see a 360° view of the city.  After the Church we walked down to the water to see the Sólfarið (Sun Voyager Sculpture) and then over to the Harpa Concert Hall.

By then it was getting late and we were getting hungry so we walked up Laugavegur Street (the main shopping area) to find food.  This is, unfortunately, where we found the one down side of Iceland. Everything is insanely, insanely expensive.  Granted we were in a tourist-y and probably more expensive area, but we could not find a single place where we could get a meal for under $25.  We ended up heading back towards the church where there was a street vendor selling waffles for $8.  We also happened to walk by a bicycle with a basket full of pastries.  Everything was closing up around us and apparently the bakery just put all of their remaining goods out on the street.  Other people were packing up pastries to go so we grabbed some as well.  Those would make up my breakfasts for the rest of the trip.  I am not above taking food from the side of the road when hungry.

We were back to the hostel and in bed by 7:30 and didn't wake up until 8am the next morning.  

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