Recently I scratched Goal #8) Travel to Iceland off the list.
As our plane descended into Keflavík, I watched Eyjafjallajökull on the horizon spewing ash into the sky. The land below was barren and scabrous, covered in black volcanic rocks from ancient eruptions. For a moment it felt as though our plane was about to touch down on another planet.
For the next week, this was home.
The 45 minute bus ride into Reykjavík confirmed what I had seen from the sky. As far as I could see, the landscape was devoid of life. Like the flower that pushes its way through a crack in the sidewalk, tiny communities sprouted out of the black, the bright colored homes contrasted against the earthly surroundings.
The small communities started to condense as we approached Reykjavík and the boundaries between towns blurred until it was impossible to distinguish one from the next. Hallgrímskirkja appeared in the distance, meaning Reykjavík was only moments away. We entered a city as modern as any I have seen. Unlike other European cities I have been to, Reykjavík lacks a feeling of history, no surprise as much of the growth within Reykjavík took place after World War II.
After a bus transfer at the main station, we arrived at our hostel in downtown Reykjavík. On the counter there was a pile of propaganda promoting tours to visit Eyjafjallajökull. I could accomplish Goal #83) Witness a Volcanic Eruption by taking one of these tours and I found myself caught up in the excitement of the moment. Only the best tour would be good enough for me! Total cost: 70,000 Icelandic Krónur. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering about the streets of Reykjavík while we waited until it was time to begin our tour.
The rest of the week we found ourselves taking tours and going on excursions around the southwestern peninsula of Iceland. Thankfully, the remainder of these were significantly more affordable than the trip to Eyjafjallajökull. We went whale watching in Faxaflói Bay where we watched Minke Whales surface and dive down into the cold North Atlantic waters off the coast of Reykjavík. Bottlenose dolphins played off in the distance. We took the Golden Circle tour where we saw Þingvellir, Gullfoss, Geysir and Strokkur. We visited the famed Blue Lagoon, relaxing in the chalky blue water before eating dinner at the Lava Restaurant.
Our week was filled with unique moments and spectacular places. We ate at a variety of restaurants, from hot dog stands to locally owned restaurants where the owner greeted each customer as they came in and left. Aside from spending far too much money on the tour to Eyjafjallajökull, our trip was fantastic and I wouldn’t change a single moment. With exception of the trip to Eyjafjallajökull (which was amazing), each trip was worth every penny, especially the Golden Circle Tour with Reykjavík Excursions. If you ever have the chance to visit Iceland, this is a tour I recommend you spend a day taking. The guide provided a wealth of information on the history of Iceland, the geology of the region and his thoughts on the countries financial crisis and upcoming city council elections.
By Saturday I was ready to go home and sad to be leaving. It is clear that I need far more time in Iceland than a week at a time. On my next visit I will spend at least 2 weeks so that I can take a road trip around the Ring Road and see the rest of the country. It is an amazing place and I can’t wait to go back.