Trip to Iceland - May 2016
The travel blog from a trip to Reykjavik and Iceland.

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Active and dormant volcanoes, the largest glaciers in Europe, barren landscape, thermal activity across the land, relaxing in the blue lagoon, can you say Eyjafjallajökull, geysers and geysirs, waterfalls with stunning rainbows, swimming pool on the slopes of glaciers, action packed activities, horse and whale meat for dinner, snorkeling between the America continental plate and the Eurasian plate in crystal clear but freezing glacier water, black sand beaches, skyr everywhere you look, stunning sunsets late at night in the summer, northern lights in the middle of winter, the island of fire and ice! This is a trip report from stunning Iceland.

Short summary
This trip report will focus on the trip that my wife, Nikki, and I took to Iceland in the period from 12 – 18 May 2016. The trip report is split into sections: this first section that you are reading now covers the trip itself but on the next pages you will find:

  • A Google map of Iceland to give you an idea where places mentioned in this trip report are located. Remember that you can zoom in and click on the markers!
  • More photos from our activities in Iceland

Please get in touch by e-mail if you have any questions or comments. All pictures are taken by Nikki and Gard with our cameras Canon EOS 450D, Panasonic Lumix, GoPro and iPhone.


Many years ago I suggested to Nikki that we should head over to Iceland to check it out. But back then she was not really interested in the idea of going from one cold place (we live in Stavanger in Norway) to a place that sounded even colder! Ironically enough she ended up going without me on a company trip to Iceland many years before this trip. Over the next years we have been fortunate enough to visit many countries around the world including Cambodia, South Africa, Italy, Malaysia, Korea, Philippines, Portugal, Myanmar and so on but I still had Iceland in the back of my head. In the beginning of 2016 when SAS had a sale and we used this oppertunity to buy tickets to Reykjavik in May. If you want to get an idea of what kind of travelers we are, it might be a good idea to check out some of the other trip reports that we have made – you can find all of them here. As you will see we have been fortunate to visit some really spectacular places in this world!

Map of Iceland

Map of Iceland. Map provided by

Planning the trip
As we had limited in time in Iceland we decided to try to plan it carefully. We bought a Top 10 Iceland from Eyewitness Travel that wasn’t that great but at least it gave us an introduction. We also looked at hotel options and for the first time we decided to try Airbnb instead! As there are great distances between attractions in Iceland we also booked a car from Green Motion to drive around at our own pace. We also started looking at Iceland blogs which are especially resourceful for less touristy sites. We also booked some of the activities that we wanted to do as it seems like it can be an advantage to book ahead in busy periods.

The trip begins
We had a morning flight out of Stavanger, Norway on 12 May 2016. Right before we left Norway, we had gone from snow to 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) in just 2 weeks and spring had definitely arrived. We got up at 4 am to take the bus to the airport in beautiful weather and as we were moving towards summer, it was already getting light outside and the birds were tweeting like crazy. The first leg was with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) to Copenhagen and after just one hour we were ready to catch the next SAS flight to Reykjavik in Iceland. The flight from Copenhagen to Reykjavik took about 3 hours and as we were closing in on Keflavik airport. I was hoping to get a view of Iceland but clouds prevented that basically until we landed.

Note: Icelandair has a good network and you can fly to Reykjavik from both European and American cities.

Touchdown Iceland!
We landed at Keflavik airport at about 10 am and as we came from within the Schengen area, we didn’t have to worry about passport control. The first thing that we basically saw when we walked off the plane was a huge sign with Welcome with a beautiful photo taken at the Blue Lagoon. Baggage was delivered fast and soon we were standing in the meeting area after immigration looking for our rental car pickup guy. We rented a car using Green Motion and they have an office in the small town of Keflavik and hence we had to take the shuttle but the 3-4 km from the airport to the Green motion office. Check out my Iceland Google map to see where the car rental places is located.

Note: there are actually two airports in Reykjavik! When I first rented a car I rented the car at the wrong airport! Most likely you will be landing at Keflavik airport that is located 50 km (30 miles) out of downtown Reykjavik at it takes 45-60 minutes to drive into town.


We had to wait a few minutes for the shuttle bus to Green Motion but that gave us a chance to get some local currency. In Iceland they use Icelandic Krona (ISK). At the moment 1000 Krona is about 8 USD or 7 Euro. A few days into the trip we were eating lunch next to some Americans and they were talking about how they had no idea what the currency was worth and one of them had been tipping at a restaurant without knowing the value of the Islandic Krona! Come on guys! Do some homework before you leave home. Personally I use the app Currency by Jeffrey Grossman on my iphone and it gives you all the currency conversion that you need. And by the way – there is no tradition for tipping in Iceland!


Note: you can pay with credit cards basically everywhere!


When we walked into the Green Motion car rental office we were met by a young guy that seemed to be a proto type of the people here – tall, blondish, pretty face and with a charming accent. Well, I can’t really say anything bad about the people on Iceland! After all, it was Norwegians that first settled Iceland so there is a strong link between the nations. The car rental guy looked at us with envy when we told him that we had gotten the first taste of summer back home in Norway. We got a small Hyundai i30 with a manual stick – this tiny car was quite a contrast to some of the monster trucks that we saw during our stay in Iceland. The rental guy also described the roads in Iceland as horrible but that is not what we experienced. If you stay on the main roads you will be fine but there are also lots of dirt/gravel roads in Iceland that you might want to avoid if you don’t have a 4x4 with enormous balloon tires.


Note: if you get a local sim card with a data plan, you can use Google maps as a GPS! We used Google maps a lot as I had mapped places of interest there in advance. Thanks Telenor for changing the rules about data traffic abroad!


First impression of Iceland and Reykjavik
When we drove from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik (the capital of Iceland) we got the first glimpse of the landscape in Iceland. The barren landscape is filled with black and brown rocks with some moss and basically no trees. At first there were not that many houses and they seemed to be scattered randomly in the landscape. But the road standard from the airport into town is quite good so we kept 90 km/h (about 55 mph). As you get closer to Reykjavik you meet the suburbs and it starts to look like a proper town with malls, houses, shops etc. There are few high rise buildings in the city center and it seems like it is the church Hallgrímskirkja that towers highest in the city skyline.


Note: Iceland is a small nation. There are about 330.000 people on the island and about 200.000 lives in the capital region of Reykjavik.


Accommodation in Reykjavik
Before heading over to Iceland we debated using Reykjavik as a home base or to try to find accommodation along the route. We decided to use Reykjavik as home base as most of the places that we wanted to see were within reasonable driving distance. We didn’t think that the hotel options in Reykjavik were that great and instead we used Airbnb for the first time. We rented a flat in the Laugardalur area which is about 10 minute drive from the city center. We were met by our host Greta when we came to the flat, got the key and got basic instructions and then she left. It is weird to rent someone else’s home like this but it was great to have a bit more space than we usually have in a hotel room.


Time to start exploring - Blue Lagoon
We didn’t spend much time at the flat before we were on our way! We used Google map to find parking in downtown Reykjavik and we had lunch at Icelandic fish and chips located near the harbor. The fish and chips were great and it is fun to see the link between the Icelandic and the Norwegian language. On the menu at this place they had a fish called White hake that means nothing to me but the Icelandic word Brosma is more or less the same as the Norwegian word for this fish. Before we left Norway we had pre-booked tickets to the Blue Lagoon at 3 PM. The Blue Lagoon is located near the airport and hence we drove back into the barren landscape once again - see the Iceland Google map to see where it is located. Once you get nearer to the Blue Lagoon you can see steam coming from an Industrial area and there is a foul smell. You better get used to this smell – I guess it is the sulphur from thermal activity that brings this smell to the surface. I have always had it in my mind that the Blue Lagoon is a natural spa area but that is not the case. It turns out the industrial area is a geothermal power plant and when water is being brought up from the ground, there are lots of minerals that comes with it. This water can’t seem to be recycled and it is deposited in the nearby landscape. And this is how the Blue Lagoon came about in the beginning of the 1990s. It is a man-made lagoon that is bright light blue due to all the minerals in the water and the water is a steady 37 degrees Celsius (100 F).


The entrance is well organized – we showed our pre-booked ticket and got a towel and bracelet. This bracelet gave access to the entrance, to the shower lockers, to buy drinks in the bar in the lagoon etc. The locker and shower facilities were excellent and there were shampoo/soap and conditioner.


Note: remember to wash properly and shower in the nude! You are going into a pool together with lots of others! If you book online you get a long list of things to keep in mind before your visit.


It was a bit nippy to walk out of the facilities as it was only 7 degrees Celsius (45 Fahrenheit) in the air – but it was even lovelier to get into the warm water. With our ticket we had one drink included and it was epic to enjoy an ice cold beer while sitting in the warm water. We also had a couple of face masks included in our ticket and I guess we all look smart roaming around the pool with smeared white faces. We enjoyed the warm waters for a couple of hours but by that time I was getting a bit hot and it was actually nice to get out of the pool in the end. There is some construction work going on as they are expanding with a hotel in connection with the Blue Lagoon. This didn’t bother us at all but there are some high cranes in the area. There are life guards and the employees seemed proficient in English.


Note: if you want to save a bit of money you can buy tickets at the Blue Lagoon website in advance. The ticket seems to change depending on time of day. We paid 55 € (61 USD) while price at the entrance was 65 € (73 USD) per person. It might be an idea to bring your own flip flops – they only supply one type/colour for all guests. Showers also have booth options with a door.


The first night we had dinner at Apotek Restaurant. We fell for the temptation to try out the Icelandic gourmet menu which gives you a taste of various dishes. The first dishes were served right away which seemed a bit hasty. But we started with a taste of puffin (the bird with the strange beak) and we got some Icelandic brennivin – the schnapps that were also known as the black plague earlier. It was not that bad at all and it reminded me of the Norwegian aquavit due to the caraway seeds that are used as a flavor. Within 5 minutes we got a small dish of ocean perch and then we had a 20 minute break before we got a taste of mink whale – the whale was tasty and tender! We also got a taste of sea trout and plaice before we got rack of lamb. The lamb in Iceland is excellent so make sure to try it out if you visit. But the best part of the meal was the skyr dessert – there was a sponge cake, mousse and a sorbet – excellent indeed. A meal like this cost 8000 Krona (about 65 USD). In retrospect, we agreed that we would advise others to rather try the other sharing menus. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to go back and try their other dishes – there were so many other places to eat! We left the restaurant at about 10.30 PM and there was a beautiful sunset. As Reykjavik is located on 64 degrees north (the most northern capital in the world) you will experience long days in the summer – and short days in the winter. Check out Time and Date for details!


How to get around Reykjavik?
We used the bus to get into town at night. The bus company is called Strætó and we did have some trouble figuring out the bus schedule to start with as the homepage was not that iPad friendly. But check out the Reykjavik bus map and you should be able to figure out where to take the bus from and which bus number to take. We did try to download the Strætó app for the iPhone but we had problem with registration as it seemed to require an Icelandic phone number. If you pay by cash you need to have 420 Krona (3,5 USD) ready and drop this in the box by the driver when you enter. Press the stop button to indicate that you want to exit the bus on the next stop.


Note: If you are going to pay in cash you should keep in mind that the bus driver does not give you change. There are also taxis available and they run on meters and you can pay with credit cards.


Time for a road trip – visiting the south coast!
We got up at 7 am on Friday May 13– you can’t waste too much time sleeping in if you want to see a lot in just a few days! We drove out of Reykjavik on route 49 and took route 1 going south. It doesn’t really take that long before you are out of the city of Reykjavik and before you are in the middle of nowhere. The road was pretty good and there were sections of the road with two lanes and sections with 4 lanes and the speed limit was 90 km/h (about 55 mph). The landscape was barren to start with and there were still patches of snow in the mountains. The road goes over a mountain pass just outside Reykjavik and there are signs on the way out indicating the weather conditions for this area. On the way out of town we also passed Hellisheiði Power Station – the plant that produces power and hot water for Reykjavik. It is easy to spot it as there is lots of steam coming up from the ground at various places and it smells like rotten eggs. You can stop at the power plant to learn more about how they harness the thermal energy. There was not that much along the route – from time to time you pass by small towns but in general there is not that much activity along the road. So bring some drinks and snacks and keep your gas tank filled.


Note: it might be useful to check out the weather before you head out in the morning. You can check it out on e.g. Vedur but our experience was that weather was unpredictable.


Behind a waterfall – Seljalandsfoss
When we started planning the Iceland trip we soon found out that Seljalandsfoss waterfall is one of the most renowned waterfalls in Iceland. It is located along route 1 about 130 km (80 miles) out of Reykjavik and it took us about 2 hours to get there. It was just a short drive from the main road to the parking lot at the waterfall and from there it was just a couple of hundred meters to walk over to the waterfall. It is always impressive to see a great waterfall – with a decent height and lots of water. Seljalandsfossen might not be the waterfall with the highest water flow but it plunges over a 60 meter (200 feet) high cliff so it is breathtaking indeed.
The place was not crowded this morning and we walked over to take some photos. The really neat feature of this waterfall is that you can go behind it. We zipped up the jackets and took the muddy path to get behind the water and were sprayed from time to time depending on the wind. There is a sort of cave in the back of it where you can take photos and if you google this place you can find some truly beautiful shots. You can find more photos of Seljalandsfoss on my page Iceland photos.


Note: wear some Goretex or rain gear to avoid getting too wet – we did get sprayed by the mist from the waterfall from time to time. It is also good with some shoes that can handle the slippery and muddy path. And protection for your camera with a good lense wiper.


Just a couple of hundred meters from the parking lot there is also a waterfall called Gljúfrabúi and I read about this in the blog of Kaelene (see Unlocking Kiki) . There were also signs regarding this waterfall and we decided to also check out this. When we came over there people were standing outside taking photos of the waterfall that was flowing into a canyon of some sort. I had read in the blog that it should be possible to also go inside this canyon to take a closer look at this 40 meter waterfall so I balanced on the rocks in the small stream to get in there and I was all alone when I got in there. I don’t know if the people on the outside were not aware of it but I guess the word spread because all of a sudden the people that were outside joined me inside in the canyon. Again I would advise you to wear Goretex or rain gear as there is a lot of water spraying in the small canyon. Outside it is also possible to take a short hike to see the waterfall from more or less at the top.


Taking a dip on the slopes of Eyjafjallajökull
The weather improved a lot as the day progressed – at lunch time it was sun from a blue sky and 14 degrees Celsius (57 F) and we had lunch outside at Gamla fjósið (the old cow barn) located just 10 minutes from Seljalandsfoss. As we were driving there we could spot the glacier Eyjafjallajökull – you know, the glacier and volcano that caused a bit of travel challenges during the eruption in 2010. Our next stop was a place that we had read about – a pool on the slopes of Eyjafjallajökull in a way: Seljavallalaug. We drove just a few minutes from Gamla fjósið and took of route 242 and it started out as a decent road before it turned into a dirt road and then a not so good gravel road. But we went slowly in order to not mess up the car and after a few minutes we reached a parking lot. We were not exactly sure where the pool was located but when people came walking towards us/the parking lot with towels we assumed that we were on the right track. The walk took about 15 minutes and all of a sudden we could see the pool with greenish water in the middle of basically nowhere. One of the walls of the pool is the rock face itself and it is about 25 by 10 meters. There is a small house with three changing rooms but don’t have any high hopes for any facilities. There is no toilet and no shower here. We got changed in one of the rooms and jumped into the pool and I guess it was about 30 degrees C (86 F). The water was greenish (I assume due to algae) and the bottom was a bit slimy. But it was wonderful to soak in the water and look at the mountain and snow scenery around. There is also a river just a few meters from the pool but that looked a lot colder than the pool judging by the faces of the people that tested out that water. The pool is heated by water flowing in from a hot spring nearby and some hot water also drips into the pool from the rock face.


Note: after the eruption in 2010 the pool was filled with ash. It was cleaned up by volunteers and it is still maintained by volunteers. So make sure to try to keep this place clean and in order so that others can enjoy it!


I see rainbows – Skogafoss
After a relaxing dip we hiked back to the car and drove the short distance to Skogafoss to see the waterfall there. Again it was only a short distance from route 1 to the parking lot and from there a short walk to the waterfall. This is also a 60 meter waterfall (like Seljalandsfoss) but it is wider but with a higher water flow. The waterfall was majestic indeed and as we approached it we could see several rainbows forming in the mist. There were a few people here and they were all trying to get the perfect shot – some even started walking into the river to capture it. There is also an option to see the waterfall from the top and we started the walk up the stairs. At the top you get a view to the river (I guess it is being fed by Eyjafjallajökull) and to the waterfall. But the best place to view it is probably from an outcrop about half way down. It might not be the best place if you are afraid of heights as it is a bit narrow and there is a bit of a drop on both sides. Once at the bottom we joined the rest of the tourists in getting that perfect shot but we kept on being mesmerized by the waterfall and the constant bright rainbows that were forming. A stag party took the hunt for the gold at the end of the rainbow literally and in the end they stripped down to swim wear and jumped into what I assumed was pretty cold water. They came back without gold but I’m sure they felt refreshed and ready for another beer.


Pitch black sand at Reynisfjara
We continued driving towards Vik and on what seems to be the most southern tip of the island, we found the beach called Reynisfjara. The weather was still good but at the beach there was a cold and strong wind. We walked past the small restaurant that has been built on the parking lot. The restaurant had been named Black beach restaurant which is an appropriate name of course. It seems like the Icelandic people have a thing for naming stuff exactly according to what it is or what it appears to be. You can see this in e.g Langjökull (the long glacier), Hvalfjörður (whale fjord), restaurants like Matur og Drykkur (food and drinks) and so on. But back to the Black beach – we walked the few meters over to the beach where we first step on lots of round pebbles of various sizes and all were perfectly smooth. The beach then turned into dark course sand and black fine sand closer to the ocean. Near the beach entrance you will also find some intriguing basalt formation. Stacked up like giant pillars they form more or less natural staircases and people were climbing up on them to get their photo taken. The sun was still shining bright even if it was late in the afternoon and the sea was calm and it was fascinating to see the scenery. But I have to admit that I prefer a white tropical beach with a warm blue ocean.


Note: there seems to have been a few accidents with freak waves dragging people into the ocean and people have been killed. So pay close attention to the signs and don’t go to near the ocean. Certainly don’t go for a swim here either.


We started the drive back to Reykjavik at it took us about 2 ½ hours to cover the 190 km (120 miles) back to Reykjavik. It had been a long day with lots of amazing impressions and experiences but we were still hungry so we drove straight to downtown Reykjavik and had a quick meal at Forréttabarinn which translate to something like Starters bar. The name was appropriate as they focused on starters / tapas like dishes and we choose two classical appetizers and two grand appetizers. The bacalao pizza was good and I never thought that it would work out with salted cod and chorizo but it did and the smoked duck was also tasty. Our two grand appetizers were cod fillet with crispy pork belly. The cod was good but the crispy pork belly was more like a thick piece of bacon. But the horse meat (yes, you can get horse meat on Iceland) was excellent with a good béarnaise sauce and caramelized onions. The classical appetizers are 1650 Krona each (13 USD) and the grand appetizers were 2550 Krona each (20 USD).


Note: After years of having a US military base at Keflavik it was strange to see that were no Burger King or McDonalds joints around town in Reykjavik. But KFC on the other hand….


Snorkeling between the tectonic plates!
On Saturday May 14th we got up at the crack of dawn again – well, figuratively speaking as the sun rises very early in Reykjavik in mid-May ;-) Once again we drove out of Reykjavik on route 1 but this time north before taking route 36 towards Þingvellir. This is historic spot as it is the location of the Alþingi – the parliament that founded in year 930 AD! The road to Þingvellir is about 50 km from Reykjavik and it took about 45 minutes to drive and there were not many cars out this morning. We were heading to Silfra near Þingvellir to go snorkeling between the tectonic plates of America and Eurasia together with DIVE.IS.


We had booked the snorkeling in advance and we dumped our gear near the snorkeling/dive site and parked on one of the Þingvellir parking lots. Once the entire snorkeling group were present we got an introduction to what we were about to do and then we started gearing up. Our group was split into three groups with 7-8 in each group and our guide CJ took care of us and made sure we got the dry suits on properly. We were wearing super underwear, thick socks and DIVE.IS provided an overall to have under the dry suite itself. It took a while to gear up as they wanted to make sure there was no leakage into our dry suits – after all we were going for a dip in ice cold water! (about 2-4 degrees Celsius).


I had bought a new GoPro camera specifically for this snorkeling but when I got the huge gloves on I came to the conclusion that this would never work out. But luckily CJ took photos during our snorkeling trip and it gives an impression of the view we got. When we walked over to the entry point there was not much that indicated what we were about to experience. From the surface it just looks like a crack and the water looks dark and uninviting. But once we got in we could see that the description was true – the visibility is truly remarkable. The moment you get in there are shades of blue in the water and red on the rocks and this continued through the 30 minute snorkeling trip. The depth varies from up to 60 meters and to just ½ meter and you pass rocks and sand bottom. It was pretty easy to snorkel as the dry suite gives you a lot of buoyancy and the only thing we had to worry about were the cold lips around the snorkel and cold hands in the wet suite gloves. We passed sections named Silfra Big Crack, Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral, and Silfra Lagoon before we got out of the water again and walked the short path back to the “base camp” and we got help to remove the dry suits and we got some hot chocolate to warm up with. Remember to drink some of the water while you snorkel! It is fresh water that comes from Langjökull glacier and it is filtered through the lava fields for years and years before it ends up at Silfra. It did feel wrong to take a sip of the water – I’m used to snorkeling in sea water!


Note: there is a small hut that contains two toilets at the base camp but there was a bit of a line at times as people also used it as a changing room. We were also informed that we could use the vans from to change in.


All in all this was a great experience. They took good care of us, helped us get dressed in a right way to avoid leakage and problems and they led the way while snorkeling. I was surprised that so many people showed up for the snorkeling this day! Doing this does not come cheap! You have to pay 17.000 krona (about 135 USD) for the snorkeling and extra if you want a pickup in Reykjavik. We also bought the photos that were taken during the snorkeling for 3000 krona (25 USD) and we just got a shared folder to a dropbox - excellent solution in my opinion.


We grabbed a quick lunch at the tourist information center nearby – they had some small sandwiches and skyr at least. As we were in the area we also wanted to check out some of the historical places at Þingvellir. The toilet facilities seemed to be quite new and cost 200 krona (about 1.5 USD) – but you get an epic view while you are washing your hands in the bathroom!


At the top near the visitor center you get a good view of the area between the America plate and the Eurasia plate including view to Silfra, the law rock, Þingvallakirkja (the old church) etc. We took the walk down to the law rock – this might be the spot where they general parliament assembly was held but they are not quite sure about the exact location. Further towards Silfra we came across more cracks with crystal clear water. For some reason people seem to enjoy tossing coins into some of these cracks – I’m not sure I understand that concept. I guess it is a growing issue as there were signs indicating that it was not allowed to do it but I’m not sure visitors noticed the small signs. It was interesting to visit this place even if there isn’t that much to see – but it is still a historic place that I have heard about from a young age in school. But the highlight was absolutely the snorkeling in Silfra – it does cost a bit but it was a unique experience.


Note: Parking was free when we went there but it seemed like they have introduced a 500 Krona (4 USD) parking fee from 16 May 2016.


Walk around Reykjavik
After the visit to Þingvellir we drove back to Reykjavik in the good weather. We didn’t really have that much time to explore Reykjavik as most of our days were booked up with activities outside the city. But we walked around the city center this afternoon, had some coffee at Tiu Dropar and tried some of the local donut called kleina (we also have a version of this in Norway). I stopped by the church of Hallgrímskirkja located on a hill in the city center. It is not that old but it is pretty spectacular with an impressive from resembling the basalt columns that we saw on the beach near Vik the day before. If you want a better view of the city you can take the lift to the top of the church tower for 900 Krona (7 USD). In front of the church there is a statue of Leif Erikson (or Leifur Eriksson) looking at the city and the sea beyond. According to the sagas he did discover America about 500 years before Christopher Columbus.


The city center is small, walkable and colorful – with a nice mix of shops, restaurants, coffee shops, street art but also small government offices (e.g. the small prime minister’s office) – a reminder that this is a small nation but with a long and proud history. If you want a good view of downtown Reykjavik you can go to Perlan right outside the city center. When we came there I was puzzled by what function this building really had as it was pretty big but only had a revolving restaurant at the top and a viewing deck. Later on I found out that this is actually the storage facility for hot water for Reykjavik before it is distributed to the end users around town! The view from the viewing deck was great as the weather was still cooperating when we went there.


Note: to give you an idea of prices. A Coke at Bonus (a cheap grocery store) cost 140 Krona (1.1 USD) and on the Þingvellir visitor center it cost 400 Krona (3 USD) and 500 krona at a coffee shop (4 USD). An Americano at Tiu Dropar was about 500 Krona (4 USD).


Dinner at Kopar
We got a recommendation for Kopar and decided to check it out. The place was informal and lively and packed with people when we came there – luckily we had a reservation. We got a delicious ceviche while we were waiting for the food and they also served us warm, fresh bread! Who can resist that when it also comes with a lavender butter that was both sweet and salty! We went all in and had three starters. The cod tongues were deep fried and were excellent but the langoustine was not that great in my opinion. But the third starter was the real winner. The Holy crab as it was called was one crab salad that was good, a crab cake that was delicious (but save it for last as it is a bit spicy) and then last but not least: the rockcrab soup. I’m not sure it can be described in other ways than absolutely epic. It was rich in taste and reminded me a lot about a lobster soup and the only thing that was stopping me from licking the soup bowl was – well, social guidelines! We both decided to have the lamb as a main meal and it was cooked to perfection medium to rare and served with a rustic mash of potatoes with truffle and a fluffy béarnaise sauce. Life is good!! Of the restaurants that we visited during our stay in Reykjavik, this is the one that we most impressed with!


I was full after this but I was tempted by the dessert menu as they had warm chocolate cake. The cake was baked to order but it was a bit too big in my opinion and a bit too sweet (I never thought I would say those words) so I didn’t finish it. The night continued even if the sun was not setting properly and we ended up at Slippbarinn and later on at Kaffibarinn – hopefully there is not photographic evidence of my lame attempts on the dance floor. But it doesn’t matter – the people were looking at Nikki and her moves anyway ;-) Reykjavik is also well known for its vibrant nightlife, so try to make your way into town on Friday / Saturday night.


Why not go into a volcano?
On Sunday May 15th we finally got to sleep in a little bit. We did have plans but they were not until 1 PM. In the morning we took some minutes to visit the beautiful (and a bit controversial) new concert house Harpa. You can park in the basement and walk right in. The staircases are like sculptures linking the different floors and the walls are basically just glass and hence you get a great view of Reykjavik and the harbor area. All of a sudden we noticed that we were running late – time flies when you are having fun. So lunch was just a take-way meal from Bergsson Mathús. The lunch was basically just ham and cheese sandwich but this time done right with good bread, excellent cured ham and good cheese! And the coffee was also excellent. The green smoothie is also recommended.


We ate while driving out of Reykjavik and once again we took route 1 south. This time we didn’t drive that far out of town (only about 20 km) before we turned off the road on route 417 going up to Bláfjöll ski area. Again the landscape was very barren and the road took us higher and the temperature was dropping. Our aim was the Bláfjöll mountain cabin (Breidablikk?) and we just followed the signs for Inside the volcano. We had booked a tour with them for the 1 PM hike and when we came there at 12.30 there were basically no one there and the ski area was closed as it was the end of the season. But at about 1 PM a small bus came with some tourists and all of a sudden we saw some people hiking back towards the area where we had parked. At about 1.30 PM a blond Icelandic girl came over and presented herself as Arndis and told us that she would be our guide. We got to use the toilet in the cabin and the rest of the group was told that they could change inside. When we came there the weather was beautiful but out of old habit I brought a backpack with various stuff.


Note:weather changes fast in Iceland. When we started walking the weather was great. As we started walking fog came in and by the time we returned the visibility was down to 50 meters. So take extra clothing, gloves and hat just in case!


The guide Arndis looked at the huge group of Indians and asked them where they were from and they said that they had come from 45 degrees Delhi. She looked at me and said “and you are from Norway” – I asked her how she could tell. It turned out that she looked at the Norwegian flag on my hat. I was wearing an Italian brand called Napapijri and they use the Norwegian flag as their logo. We started the hike and this was one of the first days after opening so there were still lots of snow left on the ground. The 3 km (or 2 mile) hike was a bit trickier as we had to walk in slushy snow most of the time. Nikki and I were ready for this and we had our hiking boots on. But the Indian family was struggling a bit in their light sneakers. Luckily the tour company provides long coats to keep people warm if they don’t have proper equipment. The guide took good care of us on the hike – there was even a tail guide that would walk with the ones that were slower than the rest of the group. The hike to Thrihnukagigur (yeah, it is quite a mouth full) took 1 hour and 15 minutes due to the snow.


At the volcano there was a base camp with a small cabin where we took a short break and got some information about the volcano. The Indian family used the opportunity to warm themselves and dry their socks on the heaters while we geared up in helmets and harnesses and walked the short distance to the actual entrance place. Thrihnukagigur (which means something like Three Peaks Crater) was a volcano that erupted some 4000-5000 years ago and normally the magma chamber fills up in this process. But for some reason the chamber in this volcano remained empty after the eruption and that appears to be very unique. At the very top we were connected from the harness to a window cleaner lift and from there we were lowered down 120 meters (400 feet) into the chamber. At first we just saw lights beneath us but as we were lowered further down the chamber expanded and the lights below helped illuminate the walls of the chamber.


The lift down doesn’t take that many minutes but on the way you can look at the beautiful colors of the walls ranging from black to yellow and to red. At the bottom of the chamber we could move around to take a closer look at the chamber while the lift went back to the surface to get more of the group. We were down in the volcano about 30 minutes and when we got back to the surface and back to the base camp we were served a delicious meat soup – the best one we sampled in Iceland. The hike back went a bit faster – our guide Arndis saw that we were used to a bit of hiking and she said it was OK for us to go on ahead and we used 45 minutes to walk back. At this point the visibility was not very good at all but we didn’t have any problem finding the way back. Tickets to this cost 42.000 Krona (335 USD) per person so it is a costly activity. But it was also a unique experience and now we can brag about having been inside a volcano. Read more about the tour and book tickets on Inside the Volcano.

We had a quick...ehh...dinner at Hamborgarabúlla in Geirsgata at the harbor. It seems like quality burgers are in fashion these days and this place seems to be one of the most popular ones with branches even in London and Copenhagen! The burgerjoint in Geirsgata is tiny and when we walked in it looked like a joint indeed. There were flashing Christmas lights, lots of posters, and lots of notes above the counter that seemed to be a part of the menu. We went for classical stuff: cheese burger with bacon but with béarnaise sauce on the side. I haven’t had french fries and béarnaise sauce in years! The burger was good but I wouldn’t say epic. But it was fun to take in the atmosphere in this tiny joint and see the 4-5 guys preparing the food in a very small kitchen! A burger is about 1100 Krona (about 9 USD). There was quite a queue and locals seemed to be fetching orders and a few sat down in the limited seating. No alcohol is served.


Time to go inside a glacier!
We have been hiking on a glacier before as we live a 4-5 hour drive from Folgefonna (see my Hardanger trip report). But when in Iceland you need to have some glacier activities as there are a few to choose from. We decided to take a full day tour with Extreme Iceland to go inside Langjøkull! We were picked up at 9 am on Monday 16th of May in an older Ford van by a laid back Icelandic guy dressed in a hiking outfit. We picked up a Chinese girl before we headed out of Reykjavik on route 1 going north. Our guide had a microphone but the sound was not that great but it was still possible to understand what was being said. We stopped at a gas station on the way to get some snacks and drinks and soon we were driving along the fjord Hvalfjörður (whale fjord). We stopped at various places to look at the view, to look at old whale hunting boats that were docked and our guide told us about life in the past, about World War 2 history, about life in the country side etc. We also stopped at a place called Deildartunguhver where there is a hot spring with the highest flow in at least Europe. The water comes out at 97 degrees Celsius (205 F) so make sure that you don’t stick your fingers in it! We also stopped at Snorrastofa at Reykholt where there is a museum dedicated to Snorri Sturluson. This poet and politician was born in 1179 AD and he is very important to the Scandinavian history as he wrote books about the Norwegian kings , he wrote sagas and he wrote about the Norse mythology (you know...Thor, Odin and so on). Without his work we would not have had such insight into our history! We didn’t go into the museum itself – we just browsed around in the area outside as there is a tiny church there and the guide also took us to Snorri’s small hot bath. He looked quite puzzled when there were three dutch girls in the hot bath as he thought it was forbidden to take a dip there these days.


Just up the road there is beautiful waterfall called Hraunfossar. The water in this waterfall seemed to pop straight out of the ground and it turns out that water from Langjøkull flows through a porous lava field and then emerges here at the waterfall. Look at Google Maps satellite view to get an impression of how large this lava field is. It was windy and cold at this place even if the sun was shining – we were wearing fleece and Goretex and kept warm. We finally reached Husafell which seems to be a gateway to Langjøkull. On the outside there were a couple of monster trucks parked and there is a hotel with a pool and restaurant. We grabbed a buffet lunch before we got ready for the drive to the glacier itself. I was hoping that we would be going in the BIG monster truck (which seems to be converted missile launcher truck) but as there were only 4 of us we got a tiny monster van instead. The drive up to the glacier takes about 30-45 minutes and the road got worse and worse and there were more and more snow – so don’t think about taking your VW Golf up there.


Note: they do have warm overall that you can use and they also have covers for shoes so even if you are not totally prepared you should be able to keep warm and not slip on the ice.


When we reached the glacier itself we stopped to deflate the tires a bit and we got a chance to go to the toilet. In the end we reached our target at about 1200 meters above sea-level. Here they have drilled a tunnel into the glacier itself and we parked right on the outside and said hello to our guide Magdalena. It is a bizarre idea to drill a tunnel into a glacier as they move, they have cracks etc. But we trusted our guide and she led us into the cave and we got grips on the shoes to avoid falling. It was dark to start with but motion sensor lit up new sections as we were walking. The lights were installed inside the walls and floors (behind ice) and it lit up the ice tunnel in a beautiful way. Our guide talked about the layers in the glacier and there were even a dark layer in the snow that most likely deposited during the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull. Further in the tunnel split and we moved in a large loop. There were even function rooms in here with room for small concerts, weddings (remember to wear the super underwear under the nice clothes) etc. As we moved further and deeper into the glacier, the ice changed character. As the ice gets compressed, all the air is squeezed out of it and this causes the ice to appear blue compared to snow that normally appears white. We also came across large cracks in the glacier and they had built a bridge with a roof to avoid any issues with falling ice. All in all the tunnel is about 500 meters and it was interesting and beautiful to see the glacier from the inside. But having said that I would still recommend that you try hiking on a glacier instead but bring a guide to be safe! Check out more photos of inside the glacier in the Iceland photos page.


Note: it was cold in the tunnel so bring warm gear, gloves and hat.


The ride down from the glacier to Husafell went faster than going up – gravity was on our side this time. Back at base camp we met up with our guide again and got into our Extreme Iceland van again and started the drive back to Reykjavik. Driving back went faster as we took route 1 and a tunnel that went under the Hvalfjörður instead of driving around it. This tour was called Glacier wonderland and cost about 29000 Krona (230 USD) per person.


We came back to Reykjavik at about 7 PM and changed fast and caught a bus into town to go to Sjávargrillið (the seafood grill). We had expectations for this place as seafood is great in Iceland. When we got there it looked tiny from the outside but when we got in, there were lots of tables. We got a table deep within the restaurant and it was quite dim light and I had to rely on my iPhone flashlight trick to read the menu. I started with the shellfish soup that was served in the modern way – the soup being poured over the ingredients. The taste of the soup was good but I was hoping for some more fish in the soup. My main was salted cod with cod cheeks – again the dish was good but the presentation was horrible. It seemed to have just been dumped on the plate in one big lump and in the dim light it was hard to see what I was actually eating (no, I’m not a big fan of the Dine in the Dark concept). All in all I was hoping for more from this place especially when my main cost about 5000 Krona (about 40 USD). We decided to skip dessert and from the tunes of Boney M we left the restaurant. This was not our favorite place in Reykjavik!


A new hunt for waterfalls and geysirs
May 17th is Constitution day in Norway and normally I would be dressed up in my bunad and watching parades on this day. This year I could participate in spirit as our Airbnb host has Norwegian TV channels and I watched a bit of the activities back home in Norway before we headed out again. Once again we headed out of Reykjavik guess it...route 1 going south. This time we were on the hunt for a waterfall called Bruarfoss so we took route 35 and 37 towards the geyser area but we stopped in a summer house area about 14 km before getting to the geysirs. The summer house area is a couple of kilometers after you pass route 355 on your way to the geysirs. We had a vague description of where it would be so we found a parking in the middle of the summer house complex and used Google maps to get our bearings straight. We could hear the river so that pointed us in the right direction of course! We first got to a small river with a small wooden bridge and we just followed this path for another 10 minutes or so. And there it was – another bridge with a view straight down to Bruarfoss waterfall with a light, light blue water that was beautiful. The waterflow was not that intense but the water was whirling in certain areas but it also meant that it was possible to get up close and personal. The water looked so inviting with this color but I assume it was pretty cold! How can water have some many different colors?


Checking out geysers
We only stayed at Bruarfoss for a few minutes before we went back to the car and drove the 10-15 minutes to the Geysir center. The word geysir is Icelandic and means to gush and it is also the name of one of the geysers. But it is important to understand that geysers are affected by a number of things and the original geysir seems to be dormant now after an earthquake a few years ago. But the nearby geyser Strokkur is still active! We came to the Geysir center around noon and we could right away see that this was a prime target for tourists doing the Golden circle on Iceland. There were lots of buses pouring out tourists of all nationalities and there were restaurants, a hotel, gift shop etc. The parking area is just across the road from the thermal area and there are steam leaking from the ground basically everywhere. The first sign that greeted us stated that we were there at our own risk and had lots of bullet points of stuff not to do. The last point was just a quick reminder to not go against the rest of the rules and it said “The nearest hospital is 62 km away”!


We walked up to the Strokkur – past the people that didn’t bother to read the information signs and thought that something would erupt right at the entrance area. The Strokkur geyser is protected with a rope around it but you still get pretty close to it. It was pretty obvious that the water in the geyser was close to the boiling point as steam was coming up and you could see water was bubbling. There was a lot of expectation in the air as all the tourists were waiting around with the cameras ready and focused on the center point. Just before the eruptions you could see that there was a bit of movement and then all of a sudden it gushed into the air! The eruptions were different from time to time but it generally occurred every 5 to 10 minutes. Some would be small and some were huge – sometimes there would be two or three in a row. So in general it was pretty unpredictable so keep your camera ready at all times. It was great to see a geyser up close and personal for the first time and it was fun to try to capture a perfect shot of it when we had no idea when it would erupt. I can only imagine what it must have been like when the original geysir had eruptions that were 170 meters high! We went over to the original geysir and the water is still boiling but it was dormant when we were there.


We had lunch at the food court at the Geysir center and Nikki just grabbed some meat soup while I had a sandwich. It was funny listening to the Americans next to us going on about how they were hunting for a Starbucks coffee shop in Reykjavik as they were the only ones that could make a decent cappuccino. I’m not sure what to say – I also enjoy having my usual stuff so I guess I can’t be too hard on them but I would advise you to live on the wild side and try some of the local products. You might be surprised what the local coffee shops can serve ;-)


Gullfoss – the majesty of waterfalls!
Gullfoss is located just about 10 minutes from the geysir area – trust me, I know! When we came to Gullfoss Nikki said that she was missing both her credit card holder and a glove so we had to rush back to try to find them. Luckily we found both the glove and the card holder and we returned back to Gullfoss. Again this is a prime target for the tourist buses covering the Golden circle so don’t expect to be alone here. We parked at the upper parking where you can find the visitor center and the gift shop but we took the stairs down to get closer to the waterfall. Gullfoss is impressive – not because of the height I guess as it is only 2 drops covering 32 meters (100 feet). But the water flow is pretty intense and the water flows into a canyon and it is just pretty spectacular. It was great to see that viewing platforms were built in many places in order to get a good view of the waterfall from different angles. There are good walking paths all round and there was only a bit of water mist as we walked closer to the waterfall itself.


It was time for us to start heading back to Reykjavik once again. We drove past Secret Lagoon or Gamla Laugin as it is also called. This is one of the oldest hot spring pools and it is located at the small town of Fludir. We stopped by to take a look but decided to skip it as we were running a bit late – it must be spectacular to sit in a 40 degree pool like this in the middle of winter and at night!


Last night in Reykjavik!
We came back to Reykjavik at about 7 and we took the bus into town to go to Matur og Drykkur (food and drinks). Our waiter spoke with flawless English accent but seemed a bit stressed and took our order without taking any notes. To start with we got a lovely fresh bread with lots of caraway and we soon got a dish from another quiet waiter and we just assumed that is was a complimentary dish from the kitchen. It was thin slices of lamb meat that had turned into a sort of chips and it was excellent as it tasted a bit like the salted cured lamb meat that we eat in Norway. We soon understood that this first dish was actually an appetizer but our waiter had given us this instead of the trout that we originally ordered. Nikki was pleased with her langoustine starter and I enjoyed the salted cod croquettes. Before we got the main dish, a lady at the table next to us got her cod head served as a main meal and it was HUGE. The rest of her party couldn’t take their eyes of it basically! I went for the foal steak but the waiter served it as “here is your horse meat”. The meat was excellent and the portions were not huge which is good in my opinion. To round it of we shared a kleina – a traditional twisted donut served with caramelized whey. All in all a good meal and we left the restaurant to find a beautiful sunset once again over Reykjavik harbor.


Time to head home!
On Wednesday May 18th we got up and left the flat at 7 am. There was very little traffic and it didn’t take us that long to get to Keflavik to return the car to Green Motion. We got a complimentary shuttle but to Keflavik airport and checked in to take the flight back home to Norway via Copenhagen at 10.30 am. At the airport and on the way home we got time to think about our experience and the conclusion is that we really enjoyed Iceland! As you have noticed from this trip report we drove quite a lot and we got to see quite a bit in my opinion. During the days there we drove 1100 km (680 miles) with our rental car! Iceland was easy to travel to as things are organized, people are friendly and people speak English. In addition to this it was easy to pay for stuff as credit cards are basically accepted everywhere. But first of all: Iceland is a great destination if you like the outdoors and activities. It is great to see that they are attracting tourists from all over the world and hopefully they are doing that in a responsible way. It seems like there is also more and more people that go here to experience the northern lights and I guess it can be a good option as you don’t have to travel far out of Reykjavik to get away from light pollution. But I’m still not sure I would travel there in the winter just for this – I think it is best to see Iceland in the summer season (from April to October) when you can enjoy the waterfall and scenery. Keep in mind that in winter the days are quite short and there is not much daylight.


The highlight of the trip for me is hard to pick. I have never seen a geysir before and this was interesting to see. But it was also breathtaking to see the waterfalls, take a dip in the hot blue lagoon, to be inside both a volcano and a glacier and to snorkel in the crystal clear water in the crack that separates America and Eurasia. There are still things I would have loved to see and do – Haifoss looks amazing, it would have been fun to see the Kirkjufell area, Eldborg crater and so on. So what are you waiting for? Pack your thermal underwear and windproof gear and get to Iceland! I hope that you have found this trip report informative - get in touch if you have any questions. You can also check out more Iceland photos on this page and see an Iceland Google map here.



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