I thought I just needed just one hand to count the number of places I have visited in the world, until I got to 8, that have touched me to the core like Iceland has. People, family and new friends have often called me back to a place, but the country and culture of Iceland has had an impact that has taken me by surprise. I just hope I can do it justice here.
Kristjan had another 2 full days planned for us, leaving us enough time to ourselves too – having travelled together in the past, we understand each other’s needs which is great. Many thanks to Kristjan for all the great photos of us here – it is great to have some decent ones of us for a change rather my terrible selfies.
We start our third day with a fresh snow cover, higher clouds and a promise of clearer skies later. The mountains are so pretty. On our private Golden Circle tour today, our first stop is Kerid crater, a volcanic crater lake located in the Grímsnes area in south Iceland. It is so bitterly cold we just make a dash from the car park to have a quick look, photo and return to the warm car. We are pathetic.
Our next stop is most unexpected: a tomato farm. A family farm turned into a successful tourist destination with the best tomato soup and fresh bread you’ve ever tasted. I love how they have their polinating bumble bees on display – reminds us how vital bees are to the world food bowl: despite all our technology, we are still hugely dependant on these beautiful creatures. The “display” bees are rotated so no bee is permanently locked away. After our warming soup, we carry on our mystery tour.
And we thought it was cold at Kerid crater?, The Gullfoss falls, on the Golden Circle route, were something to behold. Beautiful, awe inspiring but the whipping wind went through every layer and left us feeling as if we had nothing on. My eyeballs felt like they were freezing.
This is when we first noticed how many tourists were already flocking to Iceland that early in the year. What must summer be like? Kristjan had told us that 2 million tourists visit Iceland a year now – it might be much higher this year. Not sure how the roads will cope…
We visit geysers, which most considerately of them, erupt every few minutes to enable us get a few photos. It is incredible to see how the force of Strokkur geyser lifts the water into a massive rounded bubble before erupting several metres into the air.
Driving around Lake Pingvallavatn, in Pingvellir National Park, I suddenly ask Kristjan to stop. It is not easy to pull over here, but he does. I need to get close to the stunning moss, walk a little, stop and listen. It is truly magical.
Pingvellir Natinal Park is the site of Iceland’s first parliament, back in 930. It is still the Prime Minister’s week end lodge. It is refreshing to see how, once again, there is no apparent security around this property.
See the Prime Minister’ week end home and local church below to our right.
After another full fascinating day of discovery, we get to Asdis and Kristjan’s lake lodge. A ‘lodge’?! The lodge is stunning in its simplicity (and comfort) and the way it sinks into the landscape, and the view from it is breathtaking. I take endless photos, contantly amazed by the gently changing hues of the sky as the full moon rises and the winter sun sets in the distance. Asdis was already there when we arrived, having brought all the food for dinner and breakfast, not forgetting the fresh flowers, in the wheelbarrow that waits at the car park as there are no roads to the handful of lake lodges. We didn’t know about the lack of road and feel a bit silly having brought our little wheelie bags!
That evening with Asdis and Kristjan was so special. The most serene place, warm hospitality, delicious heart warming food, simply spending time there is a priviledge. And travellers are never short of stories to share!
Before we arrived in Iceland, I had downloaded an app on my phone that gives the predicted Aurora Borealis KP index, which can go from 0 to 9. Our time in Iceland was predicted to go from 1 to a maximum of 2 = very low chance of seeing it. So on my street art meandering walk, I stopped at the museum so that I could at least learn more about it and see some stunning videos. Tonight, by the lake, with a full moon, the prediction is a 2, so better than 1 and I can’t help but brave the freezing cold several times to scan the sky all around us. I can say we officially saw it as we saw dancing formations but there was no colour. While I would still love to see a full blown colourful Aurora Borealis, it was nevertheless exciting to see.
The next day, we meet up with more of Kristjan’s friends and talk about our trip with him before we drop him off at home and drive ourselves to the Blue Lagoon. Thank you Kristjan for trusting us with your car! Hope you didn’t get any speeding fines…
The man made Blue Lagoon (geothermal spa) is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi and is renewed every two days. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in. The Blue Lagoon also operates a research and development facility to help find cures for other skin ailments using the sulfur and silica rich water. (Thank you Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Lagoon_(geothermal_spa)).
I have to admit I had to force myself to go into the spa as the last thing I felt like was to take my clothes off it was so cold outside. But I am glad I did. It was very eerie to be moving around in hot water, outside, where all you can see is a few metres around you because of the thick steam just above the surface. The photo taken from the restaurant above the pools doesn’t capture the amount of steam at water level. Also strange is to glide up to the bar for our free drink where the staff are standing in full winter gear while we are cooking in water! Definitely worth a stop and my psoriasis on my legs calmed down for a good 2 weeks after that visit.
Back to our appartment to change before driving to Asdis and Kristjan’s home for a farewell dinner they organised for us with a few of their friends. It was wonderful to meet them and get to know some of our followers. Asdis, I cannot thank you enough for the sumptuous dinner and for making a special lobster soup without cream just for me. I cannot imagine I will ever have another lobster soup anywhere near as good as yours.
And so our trip in Iceland has come to an end. What a full trip, so many new memories and experiences. Of course, having Kristjan taking us on these private tours, providing lots of history and Asdis and his hospitality and generosity knowing no bounds, made our time in Iceland all the more special, incredibly enjoyable and interesting. Kristjan and Asdis, our evening on the lake with you will remain a highlight of our time in Iceland. Thank you both – hopefully you’ll make it to Brisbane one day so we can try and return the favour.
Despite the absolute bitter cold, for us that is, I feel a strong urge return to Iceland to walk the land, to hike and camp (not in winter though). To take our time, listen to and watch the stunning landscape. Maybe the elves and pixies talked to me too?