You know that you’re having a good day when you’ve just taken a very cold but breathtaking walk through Þingvellir national park and you arrive back at your rental car to eat lunch – bread, cheese, some interesting Icelandic meat and Skyr yogurt – and this little beauty of a 90’s hit comes on the radio:
The first piece of music I ever owned (circa 1999, on cassette from Asda – thanks, mum!) and now I find it being played on an Icelandic radio station nearly 17 years later. (We later realised that this was the best radio station ever. If you make a trip to Iceland tune into 97.7 fm… X-id is literally amazing).
Anyway, leading up to this beautiful moment… We left a rainy Reykjavík at about 11am, stopping at a Bonus for supplies. Bonus is by far the ‘cheapest’ supermarket we found, if you can refer to anything in Iceland as cheap! Just under an hour later, after driving through the gloomy, dramatic surroundings we arrive at the usual first stop in Golden Circle trips: Þingvellir. The bad weather appears to add even more of an atmosphere to the landscape which I find bold and imposing. We wrap up and take a walk around some of the paths through the park, the thoughts of how the landscape was formed at the forefront of my mind. It’s almost like being in the Lake District, but at the same time not like that at all. We soak up our surroundings, relishing in the fresh air but then realise that we have been walking far longer than we thought and retreat back to the car to where this post started.
Next stop on our route is Geysir. We drive for another hour, passing through Laugarvatn where we would later be spending the night, and finally arrive in Geysir. Even the journeys in this beautiful country are amazing. The roads are quiet and there seems to be waterfalls around every corner. The Great Geysir, the first of its kind and the origin of the word ‘geyser’, is no longer active but it’s friend Strokkur still erupts every couple of minutes. Now, all the guidebooks, websites and blogs talk about the wonderful geysers. There are excellent photos showing Strokkur erupting many metres into the air. However this is what they don’t tell you:
- Egg mayo. The whole volcanic site, and many other places we discover, smells very strongly like egg mayonnaise. It’s actually sulphur but egg mayonnaise is the best comparable smell.
- It’s pretty hard, and very fluky to get a good photo of a geysir. Regardless, my attempt is below.
Our final stop, before retreating back to Laugarvatn, is Gulfoss. We’ve realised that ‘foss’ means waterfall and I’m very excited to see the waterfall that’s been dubbed more spectacular than the Niagra Falls. Gulfoss is only a few minutes away from Geysir so we quickly arrive and walk down the path towards the falls. I’m not sure I have sufficient words to descibe Gullfoss but here are a few: magnificent, compelling, omnipotent, violent. And yet weirdly the millions of tonnes of water, cascading viciously down the rock face makes me feel calm. One of the paths down to the viewing point for Geysir is closed in the winter, but we followed everyone’s lead and hopped over the rope, and I’m very glad that we did as the view from here was even more spectacular.
Finally, we head back to Laugarvatn for the night. We have booked hostels for the last 4 nights of our stay through Hostelling International. When we arrive, our hostel looks like a building site and I quickly apologise to Conor thinking I may have made a poor choice in the booking. However the lovely lady at the hostel apologises to us for the mess and informs us that due to construction work we won’t be spending the evening here but, not to worry, she has ‘a little house with a hot tub’. AMAZING. Nobody else arrives that evening so after eating pizza at another hostel in Laugarvatn (Héraðsskólinn Hostel – excellent pizzas, beers and quirky decor) we spend the evening star gazing from our hot tub which, of course, also smells a little eggy. Fortunately, a few gins later we almost can’t smell it….
The next day we leave beautiful Laugarvatn and head to the south coast where the next part of our adventure begins. A blog post on the beautiful south coast will be making an appearance soon, but for now pictures of this adventure are on instagram: @thisteachertravels