Two Days in Iceland: The Sights


So you might be wondering, who’s this? I came here for Casie’s expert tips, tricks, and tales about life! Not her boring sister’s rundown of her honeymoon (you might remember me from this previous post)! But alas, you all are stuck with me for the next couple of weeks, and I hope we become the best of friends. ❤ 

After a whirlwind DC courthouse wedding (*aw! thanks for the presumed well-wishes!*), my new forever boo and I departed for the true Great White North: Iceland! Since we only had two days, our plan was to figure out ways to get the general gist but also feel like we actually experienced at least a little bit of Iceland.

Our Wow Air flight from Baltimore got in to Keflavik (pronounced KEH-FLUH-VIK) at an ungodly hour (luckily it was light out because, you know, geography), so we had some time to kill before our first destination for the day. First, we picked up our rental car from Blue Car Rental. There are numerous buses that can take you to where you need to go in Iceland, but we decided to brave the Icelandic roads ourselves!

Next… well… we didn’t really have plan because it was 5am, so we drove aimlessly around Iceland’s weirdly beautiful landscape until we arrived at our first stop.

Day 1, Stop 1: Blue Lagoon

In a few words, Blue Lagoon is a steamy, luxurious bath that you share with hundreds of other people, which sounds awful but is actually amazing.

Blue Lagoon Entrance, IcelandHot tip (lulz, get it? Because it’s a geothermal spa?): You can take your phone/cameras into the Lagoon, but I was convinced I would drop it in the silica-rich waters, so you guys get me shivering in front of the entrance instead. 

I’d say (if you can) go with the Premium tickets. It comes with some great stuff like TWO different mud masks and a boozy (or non-boozy if you are so inclined) drink, which is always welcome. The tickets are a timed entry thing, but you can stay for as long as you’d like once you enter the Lagoon. We basically waded around for two-ish hours, and once we hit a point of mild heat exhaustion, got out and relaxed within the Lagoon’s indoor area.

We also made a reservation for lunch at their LAVA Restaurant, and it was great. I’ll be giving you a full debrief on my Icelandic meals next week, so no worries, loves. You’ll hear all about this and other nomz.

Blue Lagoon definitely lives up to the hype. Try to visit if you have an extended layover in Keflavik or an actual Icelandic excursion.

Day 1, Stop 2 (and parts of Day 2): Reykjavik!

After luxuriating for a few hours, we headed for our home-base, Reykjavik. We arrived at our Airbnb and decided that, despite being exhausted, we wanted to see the town and of course partake in their world-famous hot dogs. While I’d like to say that we also participated in a structured walking tour of the town (next time, I swear!), we basically just wandered and marveled at the murals, viking statues, and, of course, the striking Hallgrímskirkja.

Fun fact: Did you know that Reykjavik means Smoke Cove! Well, now you do! Source: A statue of Ingólfur Arnarson, who was one of the first permanent Norse settlers to the area in the 9th century CE. He named the town after the steam swirling around the hot springs throughout the area.

 

Top left: Hallgrímskirkja, the Lutheran church of Reykjavik, named the 17th century poet, Hallgrímur Pétursson. Bottom left: One of the stunning murals around town in Reykjavik. Right: My favorite photo from Reykjavik; the view from the top of Hallgrímskirkja. It’s like $10 to ride up the elevator, so DO IT, the view is amazing.

Overall, my biggest regret is not finding a walking tour so that we could have learned more about the city. Due to timing, we ended up having to meander around and google the history and culture surrounding us, which is not how I usually like to travel. For the same reason, we were also not able to make it to any of the lovely museums of Reykjavik, which is a travesty because museums are a crucial part of my travel experience. All that said, we loved Reykjavik and hope to return sooner rather than later.

Day 2, Stops 1-3: The Golden Circle

You guys, I’m not one for “nature,” but the Golden Circle may have convinced me otherwise. Although there are numerous group bus tours of the Golden Circle, we drove the trek ourselves, and our little Icelandic road trip (that only took about 5 hours total) was majestic AF.

Stop 1: Þingvellir National Park

First stop was Þingvellir (or Thingvellir) National Park. Sitting in a rift valley, Þingvellir boasts not only some amazing views but also some history and archaeology since the park is most famous for being the meeting place of Iceland’s parliament dating back to the 11th century. As a museum person (meaning I work in the museum field and like them a lot), I was super impressed with their interpretive panels throughout the portion of the park we visited. I could have easily spent all day at Þingvellir and would highly recommend visiting.

 

I won’t bore you with descriptions of each photo, but check it out! How beautiful is Þingvellir?! I was particularly fond of all the moss, but as you can see, not as fond of all the gravel that ended up in my boots.

A few notes:

  1. You do have to pay like 2 Íkr to use the bathrooms. I know, I know… For some reason people hate that, but if the proceeds keep the park looking as nice as it does, it’s worth it in my opinion.
  2. Also, there is a charge for parking if you’re driving there yourself. Once you pay, however, the parking is good for the entire day.
  3. The visitor center was also under construction during our visit, but it looks like it will be great once finished!

Stop 2: Geysir

Next, we continued on to Geysir, the namesake for literally all geysers everywhere. I had never seen a geyser in real life, so I was pretty excited.

 

So it’s long, but WORTH IT. The action kicks into 12th gear around 14 seconds. I even figured out how to edit out my goofy giggling at the end, so you’re welcome!

So yeah, pretty standard but oh so thrilling! In the words of an HBO robot: “Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor?”

Also, there is an amazing visitor center with restaurants and a souvenir shop that stocks a number of designer brands from Iceland, like Geysir, 66°North, and many more!

Stop 3: Gullfoss Falls

The final stop on the Golden Circle was Gullfoss, an absolutely beautiful waterfall that my forever boo was most excited to see.

 

A memorial to the Savior of Gullfoss, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, and a view of Gullfoss, which means “Golden Falls.”

What I learned about myself at Gullfoss is that I am terrified of slipping and falling  to my untimely death in nature. While this area is super safe with well-maintained trails, I was not about to go closer to the waterfall, which you can absolutely do if you’re braver than me.

One of my favorite finds/stories (I’m sorry! I can’t help telling one boring historical anecdote I learned) at Gullfoss and maybe even Iceland as a whole is that of Sigríður Tómasdóttir (also referred to as Sigríður in Brattholt), the Savior of Gullfoss. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sigríður and her family acted as guides to the falls to help tourists navigate the difficult terrain surrounding Gullfoss. Eventually, the site came under threat of exploitation by wealthy investors hoping to use the site for producing electricity, and our girl Sigríður was not about it, so she became a fervent activist for the preservation of Gullfoss and even threatened to throw herself into the falls if it fell into the hands of industry. With the help of a lawyer, she was able to save the falls from exploitation, and Gullfoss is now the property of the Icelandic people. She currently has an intimidating memorial right next to the falls. So there you go! Powerful historical female narrative for you!

Gullfoss is a perfect endpoint to the Golden Circle. Also, it is only about ten minutes away from Geysir, so there is no excuse not to visit if you’re already out in that neck of the woods.

Overall, the Golden Circle was a great way for us to see some of Iceland’s natural beauty in a short amount of time. Totally do-able for our two-day visit and highly recommended on all fronts!

Wrapping up our Two Days in Iceland

Driving back from our Golden Circle journey , we continued to marvel at Iceland from the car. Once we returned to Reykjavik, we wandered for a little longer, and then had an early bedtime because our flight to Edinburgh was at a brisk 6am. Our two days in Iceland were, sadly, over.

Final Verdict:

Favorite Stop: Þingvellir National Park because I am a sucker for some well done interpretive panels and moss.

What we missed out on: First, doing a walking tour (or any guided tour) of Reykjavik. Second, going to any of the museums of Reykjavik. Third, the rest of Iceland! We mainly stayed in the southwestern part of the country, but there is SO MUCH MORE to explore!


Next Tuesday, I’ll fast forward in time and tell you all about my long-awaited return to Scotland. Next Thursday, I’ll recount my riveting culinary adventures in Iceland!


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Just an NoVa'n giving unsolicited travel advice.

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