To start our honeymoon, we head to the north. Akureyri is our first stop.
The first two days we stay in town, exploring shops, celebrating a friend's wedding, and enjoying the community pool which is quite the experience and nothing like the pools in the US, in the best way possible.
Enjoying geothermal pools is not just an activity that people in Iceland do; it's a way of life. As I understand it, many people plan their days around trips to the community pools. Go in the morning before work, during lunch breaks, and before their day is over. These baths also create an enjoyable way to end your hikes, as there are many you can choose from in any town in Iceland.
These aquatic traditions have been said to have been around since the island was settled. Hot water runs abundantly through, over, and under the entire island, creating these natural baths for its citizens to enjoy. As a visitor, it was wonderful to experience such a ritual that is so deeply imbedded into the culture.
I went to the Akureyri pool with my friends and their family. Many of my friends family members had been going there since they were children and said that there were many years where they would go every single year. For some, that may seem like a lot of pool time, but it is so much more than that.
The facility has a lap pool, a leisure pool, a kids pool, two slides, three hot tubs (all at various temperatures), and a steam sauna. Not to mention various workout equipment that is on the grounds both indoor and out. There is something for everyone, young and old - lazy and outgoing. Personally, I enjoyed the hot tubs and the steam sauna. It was great to go from hot and cold and enjoy the fresh, Icelandic air while spending time with my friends.
If you plan to stay in Akureyri for a few days, I highly recommend Accommodation Akureyri. We found out about this company on VRBO and I can't say enough good things about it. The prices are half of what you'll pay at any hotel in town, and your money goes a long way. The unit is nicely furnished, recently renovated, and spacious all in the heart of town. It's one of my prouder booking moments. Everything, including the airport, is less than a 20-30 minute walk, or 5 minute drive if you're renting a car. The place also has a full kitchen, washer and dryer, and a balcony so it's the perfect place for longer stays.
I know TLC told us not to do it, but when in Iceland, I highly recommend it. Reese and I spent the last two days exploring Iceland's aquatic features from Dettifoss to the center of the island.
To do any of these trips, we found it easiest if you rent a car and journey with your map. We saw several tour buses at each place we stopped along the way, so if tours are your thing, you won't miss out. However, from our experience, Iceland is by far one of the easiest places to rent and drive a car. Renting the car obviously gives you some additional freedoms to change your course, stop and get lunch or snacks, leg room, and saves you plenty of money. While car rentals and gasoline are more expensive in Iceland, you will double your costs on tour fees, unless you are traveling solo.
We spent all day driving around Northern Iceland from Akureyri to Dettifoss and if you have the time, I highly recommend the trip.
Heading out of the Akureyri, we were instantly surrounded by rolling hills and mountains and occasionally the shorelines of a fjord. On the way to our first destination, we are greeted in the country side by Icelandic horses and vast Lupine fields. Not far out of Akureyri, we reached our first stop.
Goðafoss (pronounciation)is not the biggest waterfall in Iceland. That one we visit later. Instead, the waterfall is of cultural significance. It is the location where Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði made Christianity the official religion of Iceland around 1000 AD. We were able to walk around two sides of the waterfall and feel the spray from all angles and even hike down to the river bed at the base of the falls.
This may have been one of my favorite stops of the day. Not far from Dimmuborgir, there are two small openings in the ground that lead to the clearest, blue waters I've ever seen. These caves used to be popular geothermal baths but from 1975-1984 the temperature of the water rose above 122 degrees Fahrenheit due to eruptions in Iceland , forcing people to find other bathing sites.
The temperature of the waters have since cooled to a soothing temperature but are now considered to be for private use only of nearby landowners. You can sit inside the caves and enjoy the view but check out nearby locations if you want to soak in the geothermal waters.
Second to last stop of the day was Dettifoss - the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Only a kilometer or two from the visitors center, Dettifoss can be heard before it can be seen. The thundering waters plummets to the river below with immense force, pushing spray back up the cliffs making it partly cloudy and rainy at all times, regardless of the surrounding weather.
If the sun does happen to peak through the clouds, you will see one of the most stunning views of a rainbow. I can officially say I saw the end of a rainbow and there is no pot of gold. Just the muddy lands that used to be covered with moss.
Myvatn Nature Baths
Similar to the Blue Lagoon, the well-known geothermal bath near Reykjavik, Myvatn (pronunciation: Mee-vat) Nature Baths are wallet friendly alternative with an equally stunning view.
This was the last stop of the day before heading back to Akureyri to catch our flight to Reykjavik. I won't say we saved the best for last, but it is certainly a relaxing way to end a day of adventuring. With the sun still high in the sky and the air a crisp 55 degrees, Reese and I nestled in the warm, mineral rich waters for an hour or two, surrounded by mountains and pastures on all sides.
We got back into Akureyri in time for two things: The Iceland v. England match and our flight. We had our priorities sorted out, for sure. We huddled up next to all the locals, in the rain, who had gathered in the town square to watch the match on the big screen they had brought in especially for the event. The match was happening against all odds and Iceland came out victorious. About 20 minutes before the match ended, we had to head to the airport (a 5 minute drive) to return our car and check in. Even after all that, we caught the last 10 (most stressful) minutes of the game. We celebrated with everyone in the (singular) terminal. It was an incredible moment to be a part of. Reese and I were here by chance at the same time as this match, but made memories to last a life time.