Icelandic stop over

Reykjavik Travel Blog

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In the afternoon of the 29th I got picked up by a shuttle van from my New York hostel and took the slow drive down the Van Wyck to JFK airport. After checking in and going through the slow security line I waited about an hour and a half before boarding the plane. Just before boarding my name got called over the intercom, which turned out to be that I had been given a different window seat so a family could sit together. I got on the plane to find I was now next to a woman with a very young baby. The baby did cry during the flight but it was not really for that long to be annoying. The flight took just under 5 hours, skirting past the east edges of Canada and Greenland. I got about two or three hours sleep.

One of the things I wondered as I was on the Interwebs waiting at JFK airport was that if it was still light at 8pm in New York, what time would the sun set in Iceland at a much more northerly latitude? A quick search said the sun set at midnight and rose at 3am. Yikes.

That being the case when we arrived at Keflavik airport in Iceland at 6am the sun had already been up for 3 hours. I changed my last US dollars to Icelandic Kronurs and bought a bus ticket to Reykjavik. The bus ended up taking nearly an hour to get there, with bare and desolate looking scenery along the way. In the city centre I was dropped off at my hostel where I managed to score an early check in since my bed had freed up only a couple of hours earlier. I think a lot of people come and go at crazy hours in Iceland because it all revolves around the flight schedules that seem to be more focused on being sane at the other end of the flight than the Iceland end.

After checking in I went to my room and went for some more sleep, but unfortunately I totally lost track of time and didn't get up until about 4pm. I went downstairs to the reception and tried to find something to organise for the next day, which was my only full day in Iceland. I wanted to a full day trip that was half caving through lava formed caves and half snorkelling but that was already full. I settled on a six hour afternoon scenic trip around the Golden Circle with Iceland Expeditions (run by Gray Line), which has the most popular tourist sights close to Reykjavik. The prices of everything were quite expensive - $A80 for the scenic tour I booked, and $A200 if I had done the other tour.

Now well and truly hungry I ventured into the streets of Reykjavik. Despite now being about 8pm it was of course still very bright outside. I found an Asian restaurant that was cheap by Iceland standards but still fairly pricey. With food ticked off my list I kept walking around the town down whatever streets seemed interesting. I found a huge concrete church with a cool statue out the front, but being 9:30pm it was closed (though it still felt like midday outside). When I came back to the hostel I went to bed at around 11pm, got an hours sleep, and then the combination of having slept most of the day plus the strong light coming into the room kept me wide awake for most of the night. It turns out that even when the sun has set it still looks like dusk outside, so there really is no darkness this time of year.

Today I got up around 10am after finally getting some sleep well into the morning. At around midday I walked down to the tour company office and got a sandwich along the way. I waited around half an hour at the office before we left for the tour.

The Golden Circle tour took us out of Reykjavik to Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysir geyser (ya rly) and the town of Hveragerði.

At Þingvellir National Park we had a long view out over a big lake, and also you could see where the North-American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart. The weather was blustery and rainy so we didn't stay there for long.

Next stop was the Gullfoss waterfall. It is a great sight and would especially be if you hadn't come across many big waterfalls in your time. To me it looked like a miniature Iguazu Falls. You can see it up close and at different heights, and some of the higher spots had very strong winds, nearly enough to blow someone over.

The next stop after that was the Geysir geyser. Geysir itself is one of a few geysers right near each other, and goes off on average once per day. Strokkur is a smaller one that erupts on average every 5 minutes. We stayed around long enough to see it erupt about four times.

The last stop was supposedly the town of Hveragerði, but really it was just a big shop sort of in the middle of nowhere. I just wandered around pretending I was looking at stuff until we left again for Reykjavik.

I thought the tour was worth doing despite the pointless last stop. The driver/guide was talking over the microphone a lot as we drove through the stunning but repetitive landscape so we got a lot of the history of Iceland and facts about little areas we were going past.

After finishing the tour I went out to find dinner. One place close to the hostel seemed to have a good menu so I went in and got a table. To my surprise the couple on the table next to me were talking to the waiter in Spanish. It turned out it was a Mexican restaurant. It was so odd to have the Spanish language still following me around after I have left Latin America, even in a place as remote as Iceland.

When I was done with dinner I decided to check out a concert that was playing near the city centre. There were heaps of young people walking up and down towards it, and the area in front of the stage was packed for a long way back. For a city of it's size it seemed like half of Reykjavik had turned up. I walked around for a while but being at a concert on my own wasn't really my thing so I came back to the hostel. Now I am typing this up at nearly 1am and waiting for my shuttle to the airport at 4:30am to fly to London. After a big stopover at Heathrow my port of call is Cairo, Egypt, where I start a two week tour of the country.
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photo by: MadeleineGL