Iceland – November 2016
In late 2016 I had a short trip to Europe, and decided to take a 24 hour layover in Iceland. My only additional costs were basically 1 night hotel and 1 day rental car. Getting around was pretty easy, with the toughest parts being that you arrive in the middle of the night, and in late November it’s just mostly dark and chilly. But it was super cool, and definitely a place worth seeing and hopefully going back (maybe in a warmer month).
The tricky thing about flying to Iceland is that it’s awkwardly between North America and Europe, so you tend to arrive in the middle of the night. My WOW air flight landed at 4 am, and I had a rental car reservation but not hotel. And the sun doesn’t come up until like 10. So I just got in the car and started driving out of Reykjavik towards this geyser I wanted to see. It was an exhausting and incredibly desolate and isolated drive.
I arrived at the spot with a small building and parking lot at about 7 am. But not only was it still pitch black and pretty frigid, there was not a single sign of life. No parked cars, no lights on, no passing traffic, nothing. The building was locked, so I just went into my bag, layered up on all the clothes I could including hat and gloves, put the seat back, and passed out.
I woke up a couple hours later and thankfully there were some people starting to show up and the sun was peeking over the horizon. I walked around a couple of the nearby geysers and thermal vents before going inside to warm up.
After some breakfast, I drove another 45 minutes to this famous waterfall. It was impressive with a deep canyon carving through an expansive and desolate landscape. (Think the planet Hoth from Star Wars, with a little less snow)
View from the waterfall across lightly snow covered plains to some mountains in the distance. Look at the long shadows. This was probably getting close to noon.
After the waterfall and warming up in another tourist gift shop, I drove another 30 minutes. Along the way I stopped to take a couple pictures and marvel at the incredible expanse of the landscape. It was impressive and eerily quiet, other than the howl of the wind.
One of the roadside attractions is this old volcanic crater. You can walk around the rim and then go down a path pretty close to the water.
Some more roadside scenery.
High on my priority list of things to do in Iceland was swim in a geothermal hot spring, so I did bring a bathing suit. But the famous “Blue Lagoon” is so commercialized that you need to book it months in advance, its costs a ridiculous fee, and you’re sharing the space with a bunch of other mouth-breathers. Not so appealing. So my initial thought had been to go check out some of the natural spots off the beaten path. I got to this location at probably around 1:30 or 2 pm (notice it’s getting dark). This river wasn’t hot, but just up the path were a bunch of little streams that you could dip your hand in and it really felt like bath water. Up the path farther are little pools that you can actually sit in (apparently, I never made it that far). In the end, it was darker, colder, and windier than I had hoped, and hiking a mile or two over the hills by myself to jump in the water and then find my way back in the dark just didn’t seem smart. It will have to wait until next time.
This is about how far I made it up the path by the hot springs before turning around and going back down to my car in the valley below. It was probably about 3 pm. The sunset is long and slow, which actually makes for great photos.