I know. I am weeks behind on this travel diary blog thing on my trip to Iceland. But hey, sometimes friends and family come first and my blog will have to wait. Deal with it. Here I am, after all. So let’s rewind to 19 January, when my trip was supposed to start. Supposed to, indeed, because when I made it to the airport that day, the first thing I saw on the screen was one big fat word next to my flight: CANCELED. Awesome. I managed to keep my cool and asked around where to go and what to do. I finally ended up talking to this lady at the Scandinavian Airlines desk. To sum up: there was no news but that there was a big (snow) storm in Iceland and that they had no idea whether any flights would leave at all. When I asked her whether to stay or go home she replied: “I would go home… if you have a home.” Gee, thanks for that.
I did not take her advice; instead I eventually managed to get some wifi onto my phone and decided I wouldn’t leave the airport until it was all settled. So about six phone calls and an hour and a half later, I had managed to rebook my flight (for the day after), rebook my day trips, cancel my reservations for the hostel I would be staying at and reschedule my airport transfer. Phew. I rewarded myself with some Burger King, ate away my sorrows.
Disappointed but nonetheless happy with my managing skills, I returned back to Lund from Copenhagen Airport. Over the bridge again I went. I spent the afternoon cleaning up, packing for my return home after Iceland and doing nothing at all.
The next day was super boring because well, I was supposed to be in Iceland and instead I was just sitting home all day. They had only been able to put me on an 8 PM flight, so… I left early that afternoon simply because I thought sitting at the airport might be at least a little bit more interesting that sitting at home. Turns out it was a good thing I did that: all trains to Malmö cancelled. And there is no way to get to Copenhagen Airport NOT through Malmö. There I found myself, amidst a lot of confusion and pushing passengers again. Five buses and an Indian friend made later, I managed to squeeze myself on a bus that would take us to Malmö train station. Once I got there, I found my Indian friend (-I don’t actually know his name-) again and only half an hour later we found ourselves on a train to the Airport. Sighs of relief were exhaled.
I made it to Reykjavik that night, pretty late. I only got to bed at around 1 AM. I had a pretty smooth flight and airport transfer though. And the bed at my hostel had already been made. I shared a room with five other girls, though only 3 other beds were taken.
Day 1 – Golden Circle
Bright and early I got ready to go an a day trip (with Reykjavik Excursions if anyone is interested). I went on the Golden Circle tour, which is probably the most popular tour ever in Iceland. Our first stop was one of the many greenhouses in Iceland. It was interesting to see how Iceland uses its natural resources (its volcanoes and hot water springs).
Our next stop were the geysers, which are actually named after one of only two of the geysers that are there: Geysir. The other one, the one that is active nowadays is called Strokkur. They erupt every 4 to 10 minutes and their fountain can be up to 20 metres high. Pretty impressive to see. Even funnier is to watch the people as they wait for the eruption; camera ready, some of them even in a selfie pose for several minutes. My favourite kind of entertainment.
Next up was one of the more well known waterfalls in Iceland: Gullfoss. This literally translates to the Gold Waterfall and this is no surprise seeing as in summer you can sometimes spot a little rainbow across the waterfall. Everyone kept telling me Iceland would be so cold and it would be better in summer, but I found the (partly) frozen waterfall something entirely different. Pretty cool! It was also much bigger than I expected, which made it even more impressive.
The final stop of the guided tour was Þingvellir National Park. It’s also the place where the old Parliament (Altinget) was founded and held for several centuries. To many Icelanders it is still an important historical place and if something major needs to be celebrated; this is the place. We only took a quick walk around, but it became pretty obvious to me why the country is called Iceland; everything was so white, rocky, snowy and icy. Besides my nose almost freezing off from the icy wind it was a gorgeous view to enjoy and a nice end to the day.
Day 2 – Reykjavik
I spent my second day in Iceland roaming the streets of the capital, Reykjavik. Because I had done nothing but sightseeing over the past six months, I decided to break up the sightseeing in two half days rather than just one whole day. So before lunch, I went past the city hall, a cute church, a big lake (for a city at least) called Tjörnin and I spent a good hour browsing the shops, which was surprisingly disappointing since most shops (I’d say 50 percent) were souvenir shops which didn’t particularly interest me. Most of the other buildings were restaurants or cafés.
My favourite part was probably the Hallgrimskirkja, a church unlike any other church I had seen before. It has a very special shape and,lucky me, the sun was just rising as I walked up the hill. The best thing about it, however, is that you can pay a small fee to go up the elevator to the top. The view is gorgeous; you can see the city with these mysterious snowy mountains in the background. And one thing that is very noticeable from up high is the amount of colourful houses and rooftops in Reykjavik. Very cute!
The afternoon consisted of something that I was unable to take pictures of, but nonetheless amazing and therefore a must mention. Upon recommendation by my friend Kaatje, who is a pro when it comes to anything Icelandic (Thanks for the help, by the way!), I went to one of the local swimming pools. The one I chose to go to was called Laugardalslaug Swimming Pool. One thing that is particular about Icelandic pools (and I think I can speek about Scandinavia in general) is that you have to shower without your swimmers before you enter the pool. So…naked. No big deal for me, because I’d already gotten accustomed to this in some degree in Sweden, but I can imagine it is “kinda weird” for some other tourists. (For those, they provide separate showers). Personally, I think it’s great; who wants to share a pool with dirty people anyways? ;) Everywhere you’ll see signs like these:
I thought you might find that interesting. If you want to read more about this, click here. Anyhow, back to the actual swimming pool. Most parts of the pool were outside. The outside temperature was about 0 degrees, but the outside pools can vary from 38 degrees to 42 degrees. I though it was amazing and I felt totally relaxed afterwards. Apparently this is how most Icelanders solve their problems: pondering life in a bathtub. Pretty nice way of problem solving if you ask me.
Day 3 – South Shore
On my third day, I had planned to go on another guided day trip. This time it would go to the south shore of the country. We drove past a handful of volcanoes before making our first stop at a glacier, the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier. When there, I got to experience the infamous saying: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” This saying describes the weather in Iceland perfectly; it is unpredictable and ever-changing. When we were walking out towards the glacier, it was sunny. Once we got to the glacier, it only took a few minutes for the weather to become foggy, grey and rainy, before ultimately turning into a snow and hail storm. Walking back to the bus felt like a polar expedition. I feel like Roald Amundsen would’ve been proud. We all got back to the bus looking like not-so-nice versions of Olaf from Frozen.
Our next stop was the village of Vik. Vik is known for its cute church on top of the hill and being surrounded by bird cliffs (now deserted because of the winter) and black beaches. The sand on these beaches is black because, well, you guessed it, volcanic rocks have eroded. Pretty hard to spot since it was covered in snow and all.. To be honest, I wasn’t really feeling it that day; I was a bit sick of the solo travelling and therefore also homesick. Some rude people in our group that day didn’t exactly make it any better. Nonetheless, I tried to enjoy the tour as much as I could and I did take advantage of every stop to see as much as possible. Solo travelling can be fun, but it is also tiring and sometimes a bit of a letdown; there is not always someone to share these special places, memories or views with. Also, my arm gets tired from all the selfie taking. I think this is a side of travelling alone that not a lot of people dare to speak of because, like myself, they don’t want to sound ungrateful. I’m thankful for all the places I get to see, whether that is alone or with other people. But I’m rambling, let’s move on.
The next stop, on the way back to Reykjavik, was Skogafoss, another one of the famous waterfalls of Iceland. This one hadn’t frozen and was therefore totally different form the other one we had seen. By that time, the sun was already setting again (at 2PM, I believe). I’d have to say this waterfall was my favourite one.
Our next stop was indoors: the Skogar Folk Museum about the first settlers in Iceland and its traditions and beliefs. As a Scandinavian Studies student, I found it very interesting, even though it was only a short visit. I even found the original tapestry of an image we once had in our course material. I was excited. These things excite me, okay?
The last stop of the day was another waterfall: Seljalandfoss. Pretty similar to Skogafoss, at least to me. By the third waterfall, I was less excited. I can’t imagine what it’s like to drive around Iceland and see one pretty much every couple of kilometres. Not saying I didn’t appreciate this waterfall, because I did. And that was the end of the day again.
Day 4 – Blue Lagoon & Reykjavik
I spent the first half of my last full day in Iceland in the Blue Lagoon. It is one of the most popular places in Iceland. Besides being surrounded by British tourist, it was an amazing experience. It’s similar to the public pools because the water is naturally really hot. However, here, I had the sunrise, mountains, rocks and a mud face mask to go along with it. Because I didn’t want to look like the idiots who held their smartphones above their head, hoping they wouldn’t drop it in the water, just so they could take a few good photos, I don’t have many pictures. I had one taken by one of the employees who sat next to the pool and I did go back fully clothed to take some outside. I would highly recommend going to the Blue Lagoon if you have the chance. (However: a word to the wise: get the cheapest package. A lot of people felt “ripped off” because they paid about 25 euros more for a free drink and a face mask, while you can also find the face mask in buckets on the edges of the pool).
Once I got back to Reykjavik city I treated myself to some pancakes and then headed to a museum that I was interested in, only to find out that it was temporarily closed. So I decided to go to the art museum instead. Not really interesting but it kept me busy. I didn’t do much after that before dinner.
Before heading out to dinner, I decided to take a short walk along the seaside. There is a sculpture walk that you can do, but honestly the wind and snow made it hard to see anything and it made walking a little less enjoyable too. I did however see the Sun Voyager and I got to see the concert hall.
Day 5 – Going home
So on my last day I didn’t do anything. I packed, checked out, had breakfast, watched the sun rise, waited for my airport pick-up. On our way to the airport, the wind started to pick up and the car started swerving a little bit. It wasn’t until we actually got the airport, I noticed how much wind there was. The driver had trouble opening the trunk of the van and when he got out my backpack, it moved on its own, despite its heaviness. It was a struggle even getting to the entrance door of the airport. When I asked the lady at the check in if flights would take off, she assured me that they would. I didn’t really feel like getting on any plane at that point, especially when I saw the plane I was supposed to get on trembling in the wind, moving from side to side and wings shaking up and down. They eventually delayed the flight because it was simply too dangerous to get out the jet bridge. My flight ended up being delayed for a good two hours, but I had someone to keep me company during the wait: an Australian guy who had been working on a farm in the north of Iceland for a few months (Seriously though, you Aussies are EVERYWHERE). And then I also ran into some people I knew from Lund at the airport.
It’s a small world.