Iceland, Land of Awesome Quaintness

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Finally, the Iceland post! It’s taken a while but it’s finally here. Back in August, we met up with our good pals Chris and Ana in none other than Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s about a 7hr flight from Seattle. What were we expecting? Other than lots of ice?

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Reykjavik in itself is kind of like a country town on steroids. I imagined more of a big city, but it’s actually tiny. It has a quaint, old-school quirkiness to it and is spread over about 5 main streets. It’s filled with restaurants serving amazing food, and good handful of bars and pubs and nightclubs (though I think the term ‘nightclub’ is used pretty loosely).

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Here’s a cool little pub we found after (a) not sleeping on the night flight (b) hiring a car, driving the hour into the city, then waiting another 2 hours for our hotel room (c) trying to find a place to eat and deciding to just drink beer instead. We came back here a few times.

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The first night we arrived was also the night of the Reykjavik Festival. Which we thought would involved all sorts of cultural stuff, but was more just like a music festival with various stages set up around the streets. Crowds everywhere! And fireworks at the end of the night.

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One of the first stops with Chris and Ana was the infamous Big Lebowski Bar. Where, of course, White Russians were in order.

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On our second day there, Chris and Ana headed out on a whale tour and we hurried off to partake in the Silfra Snorkelling Tour – where you get to snorkel in the rift between two tectonic plates. The water is freezing cold, but it was cool to see the land dropping away into darkness underwater – and the seaweed and moss was nothing short of beautiful. Sadly, no photos.

Outside of Reykjavik, Iceland is a land of vast flatness. Very rural. The lava fields are huge and rocky, and there are lone mountains rising up everywhere. World of trolls indeed.

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Our first day trip consisted of a lot of waterfalls. This one (Seljalandsfoss) actually had a small cave behind it, so that you can walk under/behind it … pretty cool.

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This one (Skógafoss) flows from the Skoga River over a huge cliff and drops about 60m. You can see it from the bottom and also walk, via that little path on the right side of the photo, to the top. It was a big hike, but after Esh made us walk up the Eiffel Tower (and back down) that time in Paris, I guess there’s no room to complain.

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In the afternoon, we made it down to the town of Vik, and to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, which sports those famous basalt rock columns (made by mother nature). Despite assumptions, they were actually quite huge. The beach itself was insanely cold and windy, but cool to see!

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We also came across this funny little house, where trolls once apparently lived.

Our second road trip was mostly focused around the Geyers and Gullfoss Falls on the famed Golden Circle!

Here are the Geyers (Geysir and Strokker), spurting forth with boiling water:

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And the notorious Gullfoss Falls, on the Hvítá River, where the water flows down in ‘steps’ and then drops into the perpendicular crevice below … It’s very loud and pretty spectacular.

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Here’s a quick video:

Two nice little surprises on this drive were 1) the Secret Lagoon. Not so much a secret, but more just a remote little hot spring pool set in the countryside with deliciously hot water. It was basically like a giant bathtub in nature!

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And 2) this little Tomato Farm, where we stopped for lunch after the swim. It’s family owned, and they grow their own tomatoes in a greenhouse, and use them to create awesome things like bloody marys, pasta sauce and tomato soup. The service was lovely and welcoming and the food was brilliant.

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Lastly, we made it to Kerid Crater, a volcanic crater lake. Apparently it’s around 3,000 years old (which is pretty young compared to other local craters), it was caused by a collapsed volcano and the water in it is on par with the water table.

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On our second last day we treated ourselves to an outing at the glorious Blue Lagoon. A huge complex of hot spring pools, free mud masks made from lava and a swim-up bar. It was well worth the hot soak and it wasn’t overly crowded.

We didn’t have our phones inside so there aren’t any photos, but here are some pics by the extended lagoon outside the front entrance to give you an idea of what it’s like. Or you can go to: http://www.bluelagoon.com/gallery/

As per usual, one of the biggest highlights of Iceland was the food. Every restaurant is pretty much stunning and the food is top-class. It’s a lot of fish and meat. We ate everything from goose pate (made the nice way), puffin, minke whale (I know, I know, but apparently it’s another common delicacy), and more. We asked for horse, but they didn’t have it (apparently it’s standard there, because they cull the horses every year to make room for the new ones).

Fish n’ chips in Iceland is meant to be a stand out as well, and everywhere we at it was pretty good. We didn’t get to try the traditional rotten shark, but we did go for this fish skin lemonade, which was surprisingly nice.

A few other cool and quirky things that stood out…

The Chuck Norris bar in the heart of Reykjavik:

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This Fish n Chip shop down south, which “probably” had the best fish n chips… Probably. Actually the fish was pretty amazing.

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This sign telling people not to throw coins into the geyers:

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The Icelandic attitude towards beer:

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Would we go back to Iceland again? Yes! But probably in the winter when you get to do things like see more glaciers and descend down into ice caves. Until then, really missing that hot spring.

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