August 8-11, 2019
We knew we were in hot water the minute we arrived in Iceland. This island nation sits on top of an active volcano and ever shifting tectonic plates creating a hot spot which renders most of the island uninhabitable. There are waterfalls, geysers and hot springs to explore and that is exactly what we set out to do.
We booked this vacation with Viking ocean cruises to explore the “Viking Homelands” and when they offered a pre-trip to Iceland we jumped on it. Our first day was a bit of a blur as we had to get over jet lag, but our hotel was within easy walking distance from Reykjavík city center and we used our time to explore the wonderful sea front town and get a bite to eat before crashing for the day. We were very impressed by the designated bike and pedestrian lanes and the expansive boulevards.
On our first full day we went to the Blue Lagoon, which has been on my bucket list and it is honestly the highlight of this trip. We got there early before the crowds on a picture perfect day with not a cloud to be seen just like I dreamed it. The lagoon is man made with a concrete bottom around 4 feet deep and the water drains every 48 hours. The high concentration of silica in the water gives it a baby powdery feel and a distinct blue color that also doesn’t allow organisms to thrive in it, so it is a very safe, germ free environment. There are many medicinal qualities but we enjoyed the relaxing aspects of this hot spring.
The facilities are state of the art. They give you a wrist band that opens and closes your locker in the changing room and can also be used to pay for anything at any of the restaurants and gift shops as well as the swim up bar in the lagoon. I must say the lockers and showers are wonderful and everything you may need from shampoo and body lotions to hair dryers are available as part of your entry fee… just fabulous.
The lagoon also has a hut for facial mud masks and body scrubs made from silica and algae which we really enjoyed. We came out of there glowing and revitalized. This is truly a must do and is on our “must return” list. The list keeps getting longer.
After a relaxing lunch we headed out for a walking tour of Reykjavík with a wonderful guide that gave us some in-depth information as to the history of this island, their Viking traditions, legends, superstitions and Iceland’s strategical geographical significance during WWII. It is a lot for one afternoon but she did a great job of weaving a fascinating tales of this unique island country. One of our favorite was when she explained that most roads in Iceland go around large rocks, the reason, Elves live in these rocks and you must not disturb the elves, because they can get really mean. Consequently the roads instead of being straight (costing less) were curved and longer than necessary and becoming very expensive to build. So the government took a poll asking the populace if they believed in Elves. The poll results showed that 80% did not, but just as important 100% of the populace still agreed to spend more to go around the rocks, just in case they were all wrong about the elves.
We visited the famous Lutheran Church the Hallgrimskirkja which is the tallest landmark in Iceland. Located in the center of town in Reykjavík and designed to resemble the rock mountains and glaciers of Iceland. It is minimalist in design and very striking as the tower takes your eye way up to heaven reminiscent of gothic cathedrals of Europe. It is truly and impacting experience to enter and feel dwarfed by the bare columns and magnificent pipe organ. In the plaza in front of the church sits a statue of Leif Ericsson, a gift to Iceland from the US on the 1000 year anniversary of the parliament of Iceland. They love to point out that the Vikings discovered America way before Columbus.
We saw the Parliament House and the house where President Ronald Reagan met with Mikhail Gorbachev that began the agreements that led to the end of the Cold War. We walked the Harpa concert hall with its beautiful views of the city and enjoyed a stroll through the Arbaer open air museum which is a village recreated to give visitors an insight into the living conditions of the fishing people of Iceland during the 18th century. Those were harsh times but they were hardy people.
Our final day in Iceland was a long day tour of the Icelandic country side where we visited Thingvellir National Park a UNESCO heritage site. The tour gave us plenty of stops and time to stretch our legs in scenic walks along the lava plains with beautiful views of the lake. The wind kicked up and it was quite chilly (I had to buy a sweater) but we were warned about the unpredictability of Iceland’s weather and this is summer! We also stopped at Gullfoss waterfall which was spectacular and it was swollen with summer rain and glacier water making for a dramatic scene of white water. From there we visited Géiser hot springs which go off every 10 minutes without fail with lots of fanfare and hissing water before it blows. We ended this unbelievable day at Kerid Crater which is one of the most dramatic craters in Iceland created by, you guessed it, a volcano eruption.
What a unique and mystical land this is. We will definitely return( god willing) to see the Northern lights someday and to dip again in the blue lagoon.