Monday, August 29, 2016

Iceland Part VII: Reykjanes peninsula

Our last day was spent around the Reykjanes Peninsula where we had been staying for the past three nights. We had late afternoon flights, but wanted to stay within an hour's drive of the airport. The Reykjanes Peninsula has many different areas to see that many people don't get to.

We first spent a relaxing morning at our beautiful house talking with the home owners and taking pictures of the scenery. They recommended going to an "all you can eat" lobster soup and homemade bread place in Grindavik before starting our day. We drove that way and came upon a low key place named Bryggan on the water and holy moly it was just the best! We could have stayed there all day. It just seemed like it was your typical, no-fuss, Icelandic stop and we loved every minute of it.

In Grindavik

Lobster soup, homemade bread, & coffee

Boat in Grindavik
After we rolled ourselves out of there we drove to Gunnuhver Hot Springs. This is a large area of geothermal activity where mud pools and steam vents are the main attraction. There are two ramps leading to great views of the hot springs area where a distinct sulfur smell permeates the air.

Next we went to Midlina in Sandvik, which is the "Bridge Between Two Continents". The mid-Atlantic ridge is separating at a rate of 2-2.5 centimeters per year. This ridge, consisting of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, runs underneath the Reykjanes Peninsula and we were able to cross the bridge and straddle the ridge. Pretty cool!

We drove from Sandvik and continued around the rest of the peninsula marveling at the lava crusted fields that seemed to go on for miles. It was getting to be about that time we had to head to the airport and we were in a solemn state. We had such an amazing time here... life changing we would say. The exquisite natural beauty, the openness, the culture, and just the feeling of freeness makes Iceland a destination that we will be returning to very soon.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Iceland Part VI: Hveragerði hot river and hike, and the Blue Lagoon

Before I talk about this amazing day we had, I must start with the idyllic house we stayed in for our last three nights in Iceland. The house is located in between Reykjavik and Keflavik and is set right on the ocean, free of noise and people, with the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in the distant background. When researching for our Iceland vacation I came across a blog that had this house pictured in them. I messaged the writer and she gave me the VRBO link, and we couldn't have been happier with our choice! Our owners Anna and Birgir welcomed us into their home (we had the entire bottom floor of their house), and were so friendly and informative.

Because the sun sets so late at this time of year we had been finding it hard to go to sleep before midnight - though with our eye masks we were able to accomplish this maybe once or twice. Even though the sun does set in the summer (when we were there it set at 11:50pm and rose at 2:45am) it never fully gets dark. If you woke up at 1:30am it would look like dusk outside... it really messes with you if you're not used to it!

Around 11:15 at night 

We stayed outside for the sunset one night and I have to say it was the most spectacular sunset I've ever seen. One thing about the sunset is that it takes FOREVER to set. It looks like it's hovering over the horizon for over an hour. The colors were striking, especially after the sun dipped below the horizon and stayed just under it for another hour. The sun, coupled with the beautiful scenery from the house made this a really special moment for us to share.

Hanging out at the small dock

We dubbed our last day in Iceland our "free day". We had accomplished everything we had wanted to do the week before and we had it open to do whatever we chose. We chose to go Hveragerði, which is a town about 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik. The town is known for its intense thermal activity - they have a ton of greenhouses growing vegetables there that are heated from the ground. We had read about a hike just north of the town that leads you to a natural river bath heated from the thermal activity in the ground, but cooled off enough from glacial runoff so people were able to relax in it.

The beginning - looks legit 

The hike
BOILING water!

The climb was almost entirely uphill, but you are rewarded with wonderful views, waterfalls, and geothermal pools. It took us about an hour and 15 minutes and our legs were ready to quit... but we knew that just around the bend was the river!

Up in the mountains looking at some small waterfalls 

Along the hike with geothermal activity behind us 
We made it!
Wooden pathways were a recent addition to the river since it has become more of a "hot spot". Hot steam was coming off of the river and though there were people hanging out in the river, it wasn't crowded by any means. We found an area where we modestly changed into our swimsuits and put our stuff down. Stepping into the water was like stepping into a hot tub. It was so relaxing after an uphill hike! We stayed in the water for about 20 minutes before taking a lunch break on the grass with sandwiches that we packed. We then tried different areas of the water since different parts had different temperatures and water flow.

We then had to change back and hike back down!

Leaving the river, walking through sulfur steam 
We had 5pm reservations at the Blue Lagoon so after going back to the house and hanging out for a bit we headed there. It gets pretty crowded here in the summer so it's recommended that you make your reservations a few days beforehand. We decided that we would spend some time in the Lagoon and then eat at the highly rated LAVA restaurant on site.

The locker room was a little crazy... at least on the women's side. It took me a while to find a locker and even then I had to ask a woman if she was leaving and wait while she changed. The set of lockers that I ended up using had a mechanical issue so we couldn't shut or open them. The poor girl next to me who barely spoke English had just finished a shower and couldn't get into her locker to get dressed for maybe 30 minutes. One more thing.. leave your modesty at the door! They always say that they can tell who the Americans are because we cover ourselves up as we get dressed and undressed. So there were naked people everywhere in that locker room! But I have to say it was pretty liberating and I wish that we weren't so uptight in our own locker rooms... it's hard getting dressed while trying to hold a towel around you! Anyway, I digress...

The lagoon is so beautifully done. The hot aqua blue water was so inviting that we couldn't wait to get in. We parked ourselves in an empty area and relaxed in the water. A few glasses of Prosecco for me and a few beers for Jon later and we were very very happy!

We put some silica mud on our skin making it ever so soft and took in a few more of the sun's rays. We probably stayed in the water for about two hours before we were done.

After a shower and getting dressed we met each other at LAVA restaurant for our 9pm reservation (though we arrived early at 8:30). Even though we arrived early and said it wasn't a problem that our table wasn't ready they comped us for our drinks while we waited! We had one of the best seats in the restaurant looking right onto an empty area of the Blue Lagoon. The meal was spectacular and nicely presented.

Our view from our table! 

On our way out - around 10:30pm 
It was such a nice way to end our fantastic day and our time in Iceland. Up next, exploring the Reykjanes Peninsula before our afternoon flights.