Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Iceland - Day 1

May 12, 2015

We landed in Rekjavík around 5 am and quickly got our bags, bought some Icelandic beer in the arrivals duty free shop, and walked through (non-existent) customs. Our rental car company was supposed to pick us up in the meeting area just inside the terminal entrance. There were many representatives from different companies, but none from ours. We waited. And waited. There were no pay phones in the airport and we didn't have an Icelandic phone so my only method for contacting the company was to email their "Contact Us" email address (with the free wifi in the airport) which was pretty useless. Eventually, the guy at the Budget counter told L that the Reykjavík Cars office was on the other side of that "big red building" about 100 meters away. So we walked. We couldn't find Reykjavík Cars so I asked at another agency and they said Glacier Rentals was the same company and called the guy who was supposedly picking us up. The only reason I paid for this service was because it was very unclear how far the office was from the airport. With that short of a walk, I would absolutely not recommend  paying to get picked up. Our agent upgraded us from a Dacia Duster to a Suzuki Grand Vitara. We loved it. It was just what we needed and it came with GPS which probably saved our marriage! The airport is located in Keflavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula about an hour from Reykjavík. We started our journey by exploring all of the Reykjanes Peninsula. 

First, we headed to the north point called Garður. There were two lighthouses and because it was low tide, we got to walk on the rocks right near the ocean. 

We then headed south along the coast. It was a beautiful drive. Very rugged and a great introduction to Iceland.

 Reyjkanesviti light house.

We argued for a while over whether this was an island or an iceberg.
 This is the bridge between two continents. The left side is the North American tectonic plate and the right side is the European tectonic plate. These two plates and separating at an average rate of 2 cm per year and are responsible for the fire part of Iceland's nickname - the Land of Fire and Ice. 

This is the island that we wondered about earlier. Too bad it wasn't an iceberg. They do sometimes break off Greenland and float over.

Near the southern end of the Rekjanes Peninsula, is the Rekjanes Geothermal Power Plant. Surrounding the power plant are the Gunnuhver Hot Springs!

The center of the peninsula is a protected area with several lakes, Seltún Geothermal Area, and Kleifarvatn

Us and a lake

Lake Kerið is one of the more popular tourist destinations in Iceland. It is a crater lake formed around 3,000 years ago. In the summer, when the vegetation around the lake is green, the water also appears very green. We walked around the edge of the crater then down to the edge of the lake.

Tourists in Iceland often never make it further than the famed Golden Circle. This collection of attractions includes Gullfoss, Þingvellir National Park, and Geysir. We visited Geysir first and got our first super-touristy experience. Geysir (gay-zeer) is the original geyser that all other geysers are named after. At some points, it is the highest, most powerful, and most frequently erupting geyser in the world.  Unfortunately, the active geothermal nature of the area causes the geysers to turn on and off a the whim of the Earth and Geysir is not currently active. Its neighbor, Strokkur is currently very active. We saw it erupt about 6 times during out half hour visit. It is pretty spectacular and you can get much closer than in Yellowstone. Its very interesting to watch the pressure build prior to an eruption.

 The pond that was once and will hopefully again be Geysir.

From Geysir, we headed to Gullfoss, a beautiful and powerful, two-step waterfall.

Our first night, we stayed outside Selfoss at the Lambastadir Guesthouse. In Iceland, "Guesthouse" seems to mean one of two things: (1) a typical house where the rooms are rented out or (2) a purpose build building very similar to a hotel but much economical. Both typically have shared bathrooms, which were never a problem for us. In the middle of the day, we stopped in Hveragerði to stock up on groceries. Luckily, it was cool enough that we were comfortable leaving our refrigerated foods (cheese, lunch meat) in the car. We had sandwiches and chips for lunch. For dinner, we ate at Kaktus in Selfoss. I had the soup of the day and a pizza and L had a burger. The soup turned out to be cream of mushroom and I learned that I should always ask what it is! It tasted good, but still mushrooms. Also, soup in Iceland is a HUGE portion and is generally a meal in itself even though its generally listed with the appetizers. Pizza is huge in Iceland and is very, very similar to what we have here in America.

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