Last year when I went to Sweden, I looked down from the plane onto the country of Iceland.  I decided that the next time I went to Europe I would stop over in Iceland.  This year I had the opportuity to make that happen.

My hostess, Solvieg and her boyfriend

On my way home from Vienna, I managed a 3 day stop in Iceland.  I was pretty excited.  On Friday night after my second week in Vienna I headed for the airport and landed in Reykjavik about 11:30 at night.

Iceland has 300,000 people, 200,000 of them live in Reykjavik.  And there are 3,000,000 tourists per year… So much of the economy is based on tourism.  The hotels are all outrageously priced, so anyone who has a spare room is doing an AirBnb.  (Which by the way makes apartment availability very scarce and drives the cost of living up unreasonably).  Anyhow I opted for the AirBnb.. Besides, ALWAYS looking for a way to meet the people when I travel and my host, Solvieg, did not disappoint, totally enjoyed getting to know her.
It turns out the airport is quite a distance from town (about an hour by the time you get your bags etc.).  I felt bad about getting to the house at 1 am, but airlines must come in all the time that late.  Solvieg did not seem put out at all.  I however was fascinated by how light it still was and took this photo as I arrived.

Asking around on what to do in Iceland I landed on a tour with “Gateway to Iceland” tour for the Golden Circle.. the must see of Iceland.  Lots of companies do the Golden Circle tours, but I chose Gateway to Iceland because they were supposed to be small groups.  After going to their website I learned of a tour available only in June and July (due to the proximity to the Summer Solstice) the same tour offered in the evening, from 6pm to midnight.  At this time the hoards of tourists are not at these most popular sites, and so I thought that sounded like a great deal.  And signed up to take that the night after I arrived.
That left the whole day for me to explore Reykjavik.  The morning started out with me taking out my BnB host for breakfast.  Her boyfriend and his son opted to sleep in, and Solvieg gave me a ride downtown and helped orient me a bit to town.  Breakfast (at “the Laundromat”) was fantastic, and apparently typically Icelandic.  And I loved chatting with Solvieg.

After that she took me to the place she works, which is an event venue in Reykjavik, one of the oldest.  Used to be movie theater, now theater, event venue, wedding venue, and “the best” rooftop bar in Iceland.  (https://gamlabio.is/en/p/petersen)  They were setting up for a wedding, but she took me in and gave me the personal tour.

The view from the rooftop bar
The view from the rooftop bar

She left me downtown where I walked from one end of town to the other.  I started at the Opera house, since I seem to be collecting Opera house visits!

When I woke up that morning, I picked up my phone to research the geocache I might want to go to.  Similar to my Vienna experience I found a geocaching event for that day at 1pm.  Two sisters, one from Ireland, one from Sweden, were meeting up for holidays in Iceland, and organized this geocaching event.  After double checking the date (yep July 1, 2017), I walked down among the fishing marina to go the cache.  About 10 people showed up!  Seemed pretty well attended including the not to be missed Canadians (wearing their Canadian garb for Canada Day).

The sisters!
From there I walked through off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods, around the city lake through the shopping street, and to the church, which was closed for a wedding, so I took a break and grabbed a coffee, and soon the bride and groom were coming out.  I went up the tower.


I walked form there to “the Pearl”, another recognizable landmark in Reykjavik.  It is a museum build on top of giant tanks which hold the city’s hot water supply after it is pumped from the geothermal wells outside of town.  From the viewing platform at the top you get an excellent view of the city.

The Pearl
The View – 360 degrees
The View from the AirBnB
Reykjavik across the waterway. Note the chapel on the left and the Pearl on the right.

After I walked back to the center of town for the tour.  (A LOT of walking that day)

The tour was fantastic.  It was almost cancelled because there were only 3 of us, but about half an hour before the decision time, a guy who missed his tour earlier in the day joined our tour.  So WOO HOO, the minimum was met, there were 4 of us, all traveling solo, and we had a great time.  The sites were virtually empty of people except the 4 of us.  The tour started with a visit to a hot springs, where  soaked for an hour before going to the picturesque Gullfoss falls, the Niagara of Iceland.  There we stopped for dinner and I had Lamb stew, an Icelandic specialty.

Gullfoss falls, Beautiful/Massive.  Photos don’t do it justice.

The next stop was to a geyser that goes off every 5 minutes.   There is another geyser at the same park that is bigger than Old Faithful, but apparently not as faithful as the Yellowstone landmark…  We didn’t go to that one because it was not likely to blow.

At the last stop (the Thingvellir National Park), is a historic site where Parliament has met in Iceland for 1000 years.  It is on the fissure zone between the Eurasian tectonic Plate and the North American plate, which is what makes Iceland uniquely geothermal.  The lake that is on the fissure is the premier snorkeling spot as the water is super clear.  We didn’t snorkel, but the water was beautiful.   The 4 of us walked the paved trail together and did not see another sole.. Of course it was about midnight when I took these photos, but lovely!
The fissure that is between North American and Eurasia
The water there.

We had two unscheduled stops on the tour.  One was at the shores of a lake where people cook bread in the ground.  They bury the dough in the sand, and mark the location with a stick.  About 24 hours later.. they have bread.

Trond, our guide.

The second stop was at my request.  I have a number of friends that have Icelandic horses.  One such friend is an artist that focuses a lot of her work on these unique horses. (Chris Pennington – http://www.chrispenningtongallery.com/index.htm).  She asked me to get some photos, and inspiration for her.  Well there are about 80,000 horses on Iceland, that is about 1 for every 3 people.  So we didn’t have a hard time finding them.  We stopped the van at a group and got out for photos.  Beautiful and interesting animals.

The van dropped me off back at my BnB at about 1:30am.  When I awoke the next morning the Swedish and Irish sisters had invited me to go snorkeling with them, I was very flattered, and do like to snorkel, but honestly could not rise to the occasion.  I was wiped out and slept most of the day.  My BnB host had gone out for the day so I had the house to myself, but around noon I drug my butt out of bed and rode the bus to the mall, thinking I might find food, and maybe a few souvenirs/Christmas gifts.  But I was so tired…. that’s about all I could do.  I ate at the food mall, went to the grocery store, and headed back to the house.– Three days in Iceland and I spent one sleeping!!  Oh well, I honestly made up for it the other two.

The last day I was in town I took another tour from Gateway to Iceland tours.  This one was a 14-hour tour 8am-10pm to Snaefellnes National Park on the peninsula to the West of Reykjavik.  This was also an interesting tour, but by contrast had 21 people, and a tour-guide, that while knowledgeable and passionate about the park, was not as entertaining.   Nice to get out to the countryside, and again saw some beautiful landscapes of Iceland.  The pictures really say it all.
The tour guide
Overall I felt like I learned a lot, saw a lot, and did a lot in Iceland.  Three short days was all I really needed, although I do think Mike would love this place.  AND apparently the fishing is some of the best in the world… Maybe he will come back with me sometime.

0 thoughts on “Iceland

  1. Phyllis I always enjoy reading of your adventures. Maybe some day I will leave the US but probably not. I feel I get to travel through your adventures. Keep them coming. Katie

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