Reykjavik Travel Blog› entry 55 of 58 › view all entries
The sun was shining bright at 8:00am when I woke up. I grabbed a granola bar and made my way down the street to be picked up for my day trip (Whenever I refer to â��streetâ�� it is the main strip in Reykjavik). Because there is so much to see and do in Iceland, you need nearly a month to experience everything. For short stay tourists, day trips are the way to go. Our guide for the day was in his late twenties with long blond hair and a big beard. He looked like someone who would be from Iceland. We picked up five other people, an aunt and nephew from England and a family of three from Houston (there are a lot of American tourists in Iceland because of the cheap flights.
Iâ��m sure youâ��re beginning to wonder where on earth I could be taking a day trip to in Iceland. The first stop, after a 45 minute drive into the wilderness, was a cave. However, this was not your typical tourist cave filled with steps, handrails, and lighting. It was pretty much a hole in the ground with nothing visible from above. Before we went in, we were fitted with helmets and headlights and given a briefing on what to expect.
The cave itself is actually a section of a lava tube connected to one of Icelandâ��s many volcanoes.
None of us really knew what to expect and we were all caught off guard by the many rocks that had fallen and that we would be climbing over and around. There were some areas where we had to practically rock climb and other areas that were barely large enough for me to fit through. We witnessed many interesting rock formations that previous lava flows had created. Our guide also explained to us that there was hardly anything chemical in the cave. Simply air and rock. No life at all.
Once we reached the middle of the cave, we all took a seat on the rocks and listened to our guide explain more rock formations.
About 15 minutes later, we found ourselves crawling back out of the earth, overwhelmed by the smell of grass and earth that wasnâ��t present 50 meters below the surface. Since it was a tube and not just a simple cave, we had to walk back to our van.
By that time it was just past noon. We went to a nearby rest stop (there are rest stops all through Iceland because many tourists opt to rent a car and circle the island) and had lunch. Sandwiches and drinks were provided in the cost of the tour which was a nice addition. After 45 minutes of rest and relaxation, we made our way back into the Pingvellir National Park for another adventure.
Swimming in a glacial pool doesnâ��t sound very appealing at first. But then you find out that the glacial pool is right above the fault line between the North American and European tectonic plates. If that isnâ��t enough to make you want to check it out, it is also unofficially home to the clearest water in the entire world.
Having no wildlife, this deep (nearly 200 feet) glacial pool is known for its amazing color and clarity. However, the temperature hovers around 33F to 35F throughout the year. To combat this, we were provided dry suits to keep us warm and comfortable for the 40 minute swim. Having never even worn a wet suit, I had no idea what the dry suit would be like.
First, I stripped down to my t-shirt and boxers. The first layer provided was a down body suit, pretty much a custom fit sleeping bag. I need to find one to wear to class in North Dakota. We were then given the actual dry suit. There is a layer of skin-tight rubber underneath another warming material.
After receiving the rest of the suit (a head piece and gloves), we walked from our parking space to the entrance to the water. Even though it was raining, you could still see mountains and geysers in the distance. When we first arrived, I couldnâ��t believe how small it looked. Even though it is nearly 200 feet deep, in most places it was no more than eight or ten feet wide.
Then I put the snorkel on and looked down. Wow. Even though it was cloudy and rainy out, the visibility was endless. The bottom was nowhere in sight and the many shades of blue simply blew me away. Colors I had never even seen before. My lips went numb within the first couple of minutes being on the snorkel, but when you canâ��t feel them, who cares. I was looking at Mother Nature at its finest. The gloves werenâ��t 100% waterproof so my hands became pretty frigid, but again, who cares. The snorkels were typical, everyday snorkels. The only difference was that whenever water leaked into the snorkel part, you just drank it.
We followed our guide through the pool. There was a lazy current that allowed us to simply float our way along and effortlessly take in everything. We passed many rock formations and a few plants. One of the more common plants was a seaweed that was the brightest green I had ever seen. Iâ��m still struggling to compare the color to anything. If I had to name it, it would be space alien green.
After another spiritual trip through nature and taking in the best it has to offer, I left the frigid water for the clean Icelandic air. I couldnâ��t talk for a few minutes because of the numbness of my lips and my hands began to ache as the blood returned. It was such an amazing experience seeing the natural, unaltered version of the planet.
On the way back, our guide took a detour. We found ourselves on a six to seven foot cliff overlooking another section of the pool. Then he jumped. Then we brave ones followed. Our guide had taken off his headpiece before, so I did as well. If you ever want to feel a true brain freeze, cliff jump into a glacial pool with nothing on your head. The rush was incredible. The air in the dry suit brought me right back to the top. Then the guide told me to try diving. Why not? It was only 200 feet deep. I dove off the cliff, hit the water, and went down nearly ten feet. Then all of the air in the suit rushed to my legs and I was quickly being pulled upside down back to the surface. It was a very weird but cool sensation.
After all the fun, we changed out of our suits and got back into the car.
The ride back was very solemn as we were all thinking about what we had just seen. It was such an incredible and spiritual experience that we all needed some quiet time to reflect. We arrived back to Reykjavik around 3:30pm and said our good byes.
I picked up some food on the way home at the grocery and relaxed the rest of the afternoon. I shared my stories with Liam and Jason and others that I met lounging around the hostel that night. I even convinced Jason to do the same trip. Itâ��s not too often you get the chance to experience total darkness or swim above a place that would suck you into the earth if there was an earthquake, especially in the same day. This is only a small taste of everything that Iceland has to offer and a reason for me to return. However, before I start planning my next trip, I still had two days left in this incredible country.