ICELAND~ The land of fire and Ice and Game of thrones, of course!!!
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
Day 1-Just as my flight from Paris took off, I pinched myself. Was I dreaming? Or was I actually going to Iceland? The country that has been on my bucket list since I was a small child. Since I read about Lagarfljotsormur, the Icelandic Loch Ness monster, I had had a fascination with the country. And here I was sitting on a plane that was about to land in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland in a few hours. I could bare sit still because of my excitement.
After landing, people on the plane literally flocked to the Duty free shop a the airport and stock up on huge amounts of alcohol. I found that very strange. But I also went in and bought a bottle of (expensive) wine. Everything in Iceland is very very expensive. Later I found out that alcohol is only sold in a few government approved shops at a very inflated price. That was the reason why people stocked up on alcohol at the duty free store!!!!
Anyways, after buying my bottle of cheap(?) wine, I headed to the exit. I had already booked a Flybus from the airport in Paris itself(www.re.is). I found the Flybus counter near the exit, showed the gut behind the counter the ticket on my mobile and was directed to just get on the first of the several Flybuses standing just outside the tiny airport. As I got inside the bus, I told the driver I would get down at Hlemmur square as I had booked the Hlemmur square Hostel, the cheapest(2500 ISK for a room in a 12 bed mixed dorm with shared shower) one I could find. But its location was unparalled. The bus stop to anywhere is just outside the door of the hostel.
Flybus at the Reykjavik airport to the city
As we made our way towards the main city, I couldn’t but help gape at the Icelandic landscape. It looked like I was on a different planet. It thrilled me to the core. The countryside was mostly barren with scarce vegetation. Too soon my stop was announced and I got off the bus right at the doorstep of the hostel. Check-in was super easy and quick. Since, I had already paid in advance, I was handed the keys to my room and off I went. The dorm was huge. And when I say huge, It was Huuuuge!!!! Most of the room was empty and I chose a corner bed next to the widow for some view of the street below. Everything looked like a fairytale. It was early evening when I arrived. I quickly changed, jumped into the female shower. The shower was awkward. It was partitioned only with curtains and the changing place was communal. I mean, its not for someone who’s shy about changing clothes in front of strangers for sure!!! After that I got ready and wore a couple of warm layers and an overcoat and headed out to explore Reykjavik on foot. On the way out I was handed a flyer by one blue haired girl about a music festival that was going to happen in a couple of days. Even though I had no intention of visiting, I politely told her I’ll be there.
As soon as I stepped out, the chill in the air hit me. Luckily I had a warm woolen scarf and quickly wrapped it around my ears and neck. I was feeling a bit pecking by then as I had nothing since the black coffee on the flight. But after going around the tiny town a while, I realized everything was super expensive. Finally I found a supermarket-cum-food joint near my hostel where I had a lasagna and mango juice for ISK 2500(nearly 15USD)!!! After having some food in my belly I went into one of the many tourism department shops in the city where you can get a wealth of information about everything, from what, where to eat, what to see, etc. It was here that I booked a small group(10 people only) tour of the golden circle. I booked a golden circle tour with Reykjavik Excursions for ISK6500(45USD approx). The whole tour lasted about 4-5 hours.
Lasagna with mango juice for dinner
Day 2- The van promptly arrived at 10am as was mentioned in the booking reservation. The van had its own wifi to Then it went around town picking up other people and finally we were on our way to our first destination- Geysir geothermal area, a well-known high-temperature geothermal area. The name Geysir itself is derived from the Icelandic verb geysa (“to gush”) the verb from Old Norse. Geysir lies in the Haukadalur valley on the slopes of Laugarfjall hill, where Stokkur geysir is located. Eruptions at Geysir can hurl boiling water up to 70 metres (230 ft) in the air!!!! Research shows that Geysir has been active for approximately 10,000 years. Imagine that!!!
On the other hand, Strokkur geyser is the most active geyser in Iceland and erupts naturally every 4-10 minutes, it usually erupts up to 15 or 20 meters (49-65,6 ft). Strokkur and Geysir are believed to be the same age.
The timespan between spouts varies, but most people get a gut feeling just before the moment arrives. So what are the signs you should watch out for? When you see the surface of the pool boiling a little more volatile than usual, then swaying a little, this usually means that an eruption is imminent. Finally, the surface of the scalding pool will retract back a little – when this happens, Strokkur is well and truly primed to erupt!!! I was lucky to capture the entire thing on camera. Although I noticed, sometimes nothing happens after the volatility. Its something unpredictable and leaves you in awe each time it erupts.
Thankfully I had packed a sandwich from the breakfast buffet at the hostel as I was feeling hungry at this point and I ate it to satiate my hunger. It was already noon for God’s sake! Don’t think that I’m one gluttonous monster who lives only from one meal to the next!!!!
Our next stop was Gullfoss Waterfall(means “golden” waterfall). It is a truly majestic, spectacular and awe inspiring waterfall. I gaped at it like an idiot. It is is a waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, before cascading 32 meters (105 feet) down Gullfoss’ two stages. Because of the waterfall’s two stages, Gullfoss should actually be thought of as two separate features. The first, shorter cascade is 11 metres (36 feet), whilst the second drop is 21 metres (69 feet). The canyon walls on both sides of the waterfall reach heights of up to 70 metres (230 feet), descending into the great Gullfossgjúfur canyon. Geologists believe that this canyon was formed by glacial outbursts at the beginning of the last age. The sound from the water gushing down the falls was deafening to stay the least. We stayed here watching and being mesmerized by the waterfall for about 45 minutes and then we were back to our minivan and on to our last destination, Thingvellir National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Thingvellir National Park is a national park in South Iceland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is home to the world’s longest running Parliament, first established in 930 AD, and also has a dramatic landscape formed as a result of sitting along the border between the North American and European tectonic plates. The tectonic plates are clearly visible inside a mall-cum-museum. I was thrilled to be standing in between the North American and European tectonic plates. The history of Þingvellir is closely linked with the history of Iceland. It is where the parliament of Iceland was first founded around the year 930 and where it continued to meet until 1798. Þingvellir was the centre of Icelandic culture. The landscape was stunning to say the least. I wanted to stay here forever. But too soon we had to leave, but not before wandering around the park and jumping in the springs!!! Some of the scenes in the Games of Thrones fantasy series were shot here! After an hour at the park, we were ready to head back and were dropped off to our destinations in the same order as pickup. That means, I was dropped off last!!!
It was early evening when they dropped me off. The temperature was constantly declining. I went into my hostel, piled on some more layers and went for a walk along the Atlantic. I saw the Sun Voyager. The Sun Voyager is described as a dreamboat, or an ode to the Sun. The artist, Jón Gunnar Árnason, intended it to convey the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom. It was a stunning piece of work by the artist. I spent hours sitting by the shores of the Atlantic, watching the sea and the Sun Voyager. I lost track of time. It was only when my stomach started to rumble ,I realized it was quite late and walked back towards my hostel, all the way thinking what I would eat, considering the prices!!!!. On the way I found this noodle place, noodle station, and decided to check it out. It was full of backpackers. Sign enough that the food would be cheap. The options were pretty limited. But whatever. I needed to fill my belly. I ordered the soup bowl with extra noodles for ISK 1250(USD 8 approx). The quantity was more than enough for me and I had my belly full after a long time it seemed!!!
The Sun Voyager
Noodle soup at Noodle station with extra noodles!!!
That night I had a Northern Lights trip booked from Reykjavik Excursions for ISK 9999(USD70 approx). I whiled away the time in between talking to other backpackers in the foyer. Everyone was saying they had no luck seeing the lights even after going 2-3 times. My heart sank. But I still hoped maybe tooday would be different.
The bus came to pick me up at 10PM. The northern lights are caused by particles from the sun. It’s actually the interaction of these sun particles with the upper atmosphere. This only happens around the Earth’s Magnetic Poles. The interaction creates the wonderful light effect known as the aurora borealis. The northern lights are a truly spectacular natural phenomenon. Since it was early October when I went, I didn’t really expect to see the northern lights!!! But boy, was I wrong!!!! After driving around for one hour, our guide had given up hope of us seeing one. But still we persisted for another half an hour and atlast, we were awarded with a spectacular aurora shower. Sadly I didn’t have an iphone or a camera to record the phenomenon. I just watched the lights dance in the sky. It was a full blown aurora shower!!! It felt magical. We were back by 1AM and I promptly fell asleep.
Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. Source-internet. As I did not have any equipment to capture one.
Day 3-When I woke up(I wake up really early) , there were only two other people in the dorm sleeping. The other beds were empty. I had my bath, had the entire shower to myself!!! Then, I got ready for the day and headed out. The city was still sleeping. It was 7 AM. Everything was closed. I went to the shores of the Atlantic and kept walking towards the end of town.
The city was just waking up, coffee places started opening. I went inside one and had a huge cup of coffee and a donut. It was wonderfully warm inside the cafe. I was the only customer there. Sat by the side facing the Atlantic and enjoyed my coffee. After an hour, I went outside and came back towards the city and headed to the old harbour. The harbour was full of fishing boats. But the only people there were people who were working on one of the boats. I then went to a park and sat there for a while waiting for the city to wake up entirely. Being an Indian, I was so accustomed to people everywhere, that the scare population gave me a sense of space and freedom. I sat there for what felt like an eternity. After that I went back to my hostel to have my free breakfast. I ate like a Mormon. I was starving, having walked so much. After that I went and visited Icelandic Phallological Museum. the museum houses the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts. It was a very interesting visit. There is an entry fee of ISK 2200(15USD approx). But wortha visit if you are into this stuff!!! Next stop was Harpa Museum. It’s actually a concert hall. The architecture of the building is distinctive, very unique, reflecting the true spirit of Iceland. Harpa was designed by the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects in co-operation with Danish–Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Entry is free. Spent an hour here and then went outside to explore the neighborhoods of Iceland. There were really fat fluffy black cats everywhere and I spent a long time playing with these fluff balls!!!! They were so friendly.
Icelandic Phallological Museum
Display inside the museum
There was nothing much to do today apart from exploring the interior neighbourhoods of Reykjavik. One thing I noticed was that the main entrance was dramatically painted. I even saw a mosque which looked nothing like a traditional mosque. It was only the sound of Azaan, that made me realize it was a mosque. after exploring the neigbourhoods , The University of Iceland and the Icelandic Museum for hours. I finally felt like doing some shopping. So, I went back to the main street where my hostel as well as noodle station was located and went inside a lot of shops. I particularly liked the Icelandic wool sweater. But everywhere I went, the price was similar, ISK 22000(150 USD approx)!!! I did not have so much money to spend on a sweater back then. Now I do and this is a perfect excuse to go back to Iceland!!!! and the other reason is the West Fjords which I did not have time to see. Then I went to the Icelandic tourism department shop and looked around for tours to book the next day. It was here I first saw the tour to Thrihnukagigur Volcano. After seeing that we would be descending into a volcano, I booked it in an instant with Inside the volcano tour group (https://insidethevolcano.com/the-tour/). It was very expensive ISK 42000(approx USD 300)!!!After that I went back to that noodle station and while having the noodles, I was mentally calculating how much would I have to cut back on my spending after this expensive splurge. Then I went back to my hostel, sat and talked around a bit with some girls from Germany(who were in my dorm) and then went back to sleep.
Feykjavik at night
Mosque in Central Reykjavik
Day 4- I woke up, did all my personal things, had breakfast at the hotel and waited for the van to arrive to take me to the volcano. Going to the volcano involved a hike of 3 miles approx. And then we would be lowered into the volcano in a workman’s lift. I am scared of heights, so I was worried already. The van came at 9AM and picked me up and after picking up all the the other tourists, we were on our way. It was about a 45 minute drive all the way being mesmerized by the stunning landscape of Iceland. After reaching the base camp, we were provided with, All safety gear, helmets, harnesses, raincoats etc. We were provided trekking shoes as well. After that the guide met us, before leading the way across the lava field. It was an easy and interesting hike of about 3 miles. After reaching the crater, we were lowered inside the volcano in groups of four. I was in the first batch itself. I was feeling scared, but the person working the lifts kept talking to me and making me laugh so I completely forgot my fear of heights as we descended 400 feet inside the volcano!!! It took six minutes all of six minutes to reach the bottom. Each team was given approximately half an hour to enjoy the insides of the volcano, before being taken up as the next team arrived. The inside of the volcano was a marvelous riot of colours. It felt like gold, silver and bronze had solidified inside the volcano. It was mesmerizing. Ten minutes were not enough to take in the wonders of this volcano. The first team to go down was the first team to go back up. It felt half an hour was not even close to sufficient to marvel at this natural beauty. The guide was with us at all times, in the cable lift and on the ground in the magma chamber. After half an hour we were the first ones to go up. We trekked back to the camp the same way. While waiting for the others to come back, we were served a traditional Icelandic meat soup/ vegetable soup and hot coffee/tea/chocolate. When the entire group was back, it was time to say goodbye and go back to Reykjavik. The entire trip took around 6-7hours. After coming back I headed to my dorm for some sleep. But two American girls had just arrived a few hours earlier and were talking rather loudly. When I arrived they came over to chat with me. I opened my bottle of Icelandic(cheap?) wine and soon we were drinking out of cups and mugs. In the evening we went downstairs and hung out in the common area, talked to people and made several friends. It was quite late when I went back to sleep.
way to the volcano
trek to the volcano
the base camp
Me inside the volcano
Day 5- It was my penultimate day in Reykjavik. After a leisurely breakfast, I went to see the tallest structure in entire Reykjavik- Hallgrímskirkja. At 74.5 metres (244 ft) tall, it is the largest church in Iceland. The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson. The church is one of the city’s best-known landmarks and is visible throughout the city. I had never seen a church like this. It was a church like no other. On the inside also, it was very different from the other churches I have visited my entire life. It was very austere as well as imposing at the same time. I sat down on one of the pews and reflected for a while. Then I joined the queue to go to the top. There is a fee of 900 ISK(USD 6 Approx). The view was magnificent and the wind was so strong that I felt like I would fly away and fall into the Atlantic Ocean!!!! I stayed there for two minutes top and came down. Or the chill might have been the death of me. After that I visited the town square. I was looking for the Icelandic Parliament, but it was nowhere to be seen. After a couple of rounds of the square, I realized a very normal looking building was the Parliament!!!! There were no guards or anyone outside. I compared it to my country mentally where if you are an ordinary person, you cannot come within a mile of its radius!!!
Inside Hallgrímskirkja Church
Icelandic Parliament Building.
After walking around the town square, I went to Lake and park adjacent to it. Sat down for a while, Saw many people feeding the ducks. Then I walked around to the other side and saw a very interesting sculpture(actually sculptures are scattered all across the city), but this one was unique-known as Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat. I was fascinated by it. Then I walked around the park a bit, before heading to the hostel to pack as I had a very early morning flight the next day. I had already booked a flybus at 4:00AM for the next morning the previous day. Had dinner at the same noodle station and bid goodbye to the staff.
Monument to the unknown bureaucrat
Iceland had been amazing and I just saw the tip of the iceberg. The next time I shall come to visit the entire country, It had so much natural beauty. I did not feel like leaving. But next dat arrived, flybus arrived and my plane departed at the scheduled hour. Adieu till my next adventure.
Tip :99 percent of the people in Iceland speak English, so there would be no problems going around anywhere.