The capitol of the island nation and absolutely buzzing after the win over England. For the rest of our trip, Reykjavik and the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina was our home base. (Side note - this hotels has one of the best cocktail bars in the city, Slippbarinn. Definitely check it out.) If you look at a map, the Marina might seem out of the way from city center, but everything was very accessible. Most things were no more than a ten or twenty minute walk.
While we were in town, we got our photos taken by Rakel at Flytographer. Given that it was our honeymoon, and the fact that I'm never in photos, we wanted a souvenir to commemorate our trip. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip because it was much more than a photoshoot. While we walked around with Rakel, we learned about everyday life in Reykjavik and Iceland and got to see the city through a local's eyes. A traveler's dream come true.
Reese and I left Reykjavik to head out on our DIY Golden Circle tour. Depending on what attractions you want to see, it may be better to do a guided tour but we were willing to forego driving on a glacier today, which made our trip entirely more doable on our own. We got our car and headed out of the city around 10am. There's no traffic and the roads were easy to navigate. We were on our way.
The Golden Circle
First stop, þingvellir (Said: Thingvellir. Pronunciation here). þingvellir is really interesting for several reasons. For one, it is the historical site where Icelandic parliament was held there from 930-1798. Secondly, this cultural site lies atop of the fault line between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. According to our Lonely Planet book, these plates are still moving every year causing major geographic changes over time. It was quite the site to see.
Heading East, Reese and I went to go see the Geysir that all others are named after. Now mostly dormant, Geysir is still one of the largest tourist attractions in Iceland with several hotels and shops across the street from the natural wonder.
The air is sulfuric and (non-biting) flies are abundant, but the views of the surrounding mountains, glaciers, and geothermal steam vents is pretty spectacular.
Skógafoss is by far my favorite waterfall I've seen in Iceland. It's not the biggest, or the most powerful, but it falls into a shallow valley between two mountains and a glacier and the view can't be beat. Across from the viewing platforms, on the opposite side of the river, are fields of Lupine, painting the rolling hills purple and white. I, of course, can't get enough of this flower. It's my favorite color, and here in Iceland, it covers the land. It's gorgeous.
You can get close enough to the edge of the falls to touch the glacially chilled falls. I didn't dare attempt to get close enough but I watched others do it and tell their friends how cold the water was. Instead, I took photo after photo of the beautiful scenery around me.
The Blue Lagoon
Opting for a late admission to the geothermal pool, Reese and I arrived at The Blue Lagoon around 11pm, giving us a chance to relax and enjoy the midnight sun. And boy did we luck out. Last night, we saw the best "sunset" since we arrived in Iceland. Of course, the sun only set enough to paint the skies with beautiful pinks, oranges, and yellows before it started to rise again. In fact, when we got to the hotel at 2:30am, it was brighter out than when we started to head back from The Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon is a different from Myvatn in a few ways. For one, it is placed near a geothermal plant that mixes the water to ensure the optimal levels of algae and minerals in the water. These are what give you the light, milky blue color. The lagoon is also much more geared towards tourist than to the locals.
With a poolside bar, in pool spa services, and onsite restaurant, The Blue Lagoon caters to every visitor. Reese and I relaxed with champagne and algae masks until closing, watching the entire "sunset" and playing with our GoPro (so much fun if you like gadgets and photography).
Game of Thrones Tour
For those of you that aren't devout Game of Thrones fans, that is a common way to leave a conversation if you were a believer of "The Seven" or the old gods in the series. If it's not already apparent, we were having a themed day around the hit series Game of Thrones.
A gorgeous valley in Iceland
Our first stop, I can't find the actual name of, but it's at these coordinates (64°06'49.7"N 21°17'46.0"W) if you're interested in visiting. While it was a quick stop, it was a beautiful valley that was a filming location for Game of Thrones. It is quintessential scenery for what we've seen of Iceland thus far.
Þingvellir National Park
We also happened to head back to Þingvellir on our tour today, but this time from a different vantage point. We were there to see a waterfall and one of the travel routes used in the show. The ravine itself is not that long, but we learned that the actors walked back and forth in the ravine to create the image that producers were looking for.
Viking Lodge in Þjórsárdalur Valley
Another quick stop, but definitely worth it. Surrounded by Lupine flowers with a waterfall in the background, these turf houses were rebuilt as replicas of a commonwealth bar that Vikings used to frequent. This location was used to film a scene north of the wall though it wasn't a very long scene.
Gjáin in Þjórsárdalur Valley
My favorite stop! This location is basically irrelevant to Game of Thrones but it is everything I imagined I would see in Iceland. Only accessible if you have a 4x4 vehicle, this hidden gem is tucked away in central Iceland. With clear, drinkable (I actually drank out of the river. It was delicious) glacial waters, the gorge, or Gjáin, is a must see. Since it's featured in a fantasy, fictional, TV series, it almost seems redundant to say that this looks like it's out of a book, but it does. The waters are transparent to every depth of the river bed unless waterfalls are crashing over it. I'm so glad we got to experience such a magnificent place in Iceland.
Our last stop on the trip was a surprise visit to a nearby horse farm, where the owners breed, raise, train, and show the well known Icelandic horses. Extinct outside of Iceland, the Icelandic horse is a great artifact of what Viking life used to be like.
Unlike many other cultures, Icelandic horses were raised for their temperament and their strength as they were only needed for transportation and farm work. In modern days, Icelandic horses are used primarily for show, breeding, and racing. They are indeed the most friendly horses I've ever met and far less intimidating as I am of a similar height. Much better.
Overall, we had a wonderful trip and it was all made possible by Greyline Iceland. We had an amazing guide and driver and got to ride in an awesome 4x4 bus all day. We were worried that the tour would be a little kitschy and lame, but it was great. A perfect balance of themed fun and historical information. I highly recommend the tour and the company.
On one of our last days, we rented a car and headed south. This was a pretty breath taking day. We headed down to Vík to see where the black sand beaches and glaciers meet. All at once the sea looked clear but black as the surf crashed into the sand.
We could've spent a whole day walking around the beach looking at the different geological formations and wild sheep that occasionally wanted to visit. I highly recommend taking a drive down, especially without a tour group. Give yourself all the time in the world to see a new part of the world.