J&D's Travelog


Reykjavik, Iceland

June 16, 2006

While researching flights to Germany for the World Cup, J had an epiphany. One of the better deals included Iceland Air, an airline traditionally known for granting extended layovers at no additional cost, so J suggested we spend a day in Iceland before continuing on to Frankfurt. Tough to argue with that.

Iceland has the extended layover down to a science. Buses from the airport to Reykjavik run after each arrival, and there are numerous excursions of varied length to some of the more prominent nearby attractions. We had 24 hours and opted for a tour of the Golden Circle until the evening when we would visit the Blue Lagoon. We had just enough time to book a hotel room before we had to jump on the tour bus.

En route to Thingvellir
Road marker.

Gullfoss waterfall

Iceland keeps the lineage of its horses pure by prohibitting the importation of foreign horses.  Any Icelandic horses that leave the island are not permitted to return.
Icelandic horses.

Litli Geyser
A thermal spring at Geysir.

Iridescent blue thermal pools at Geysir.

Skalholt cathedral
The church at Skálholt.

The Golden Circle

Despite the stunning scenery, our eyes were starting to close as we rode out to our first stop at some sort of geothermal greenhouse/gift shop called Eden. Both of us dosed during the ride, so we weren’t really sure why we were there. We walked around for a bit with our tourmates before being loaded back on the bus. Our next stop was a little more interesting as we visited the Kerith crater lake. By this time it was already beginning to rain, but a short walk in the cool weather started to bring us back to life. Geologically speaking, Iceland is a happening place with glaciers, waterfalls, volcanoes, geysers, and hot springs – a land of fire and ice. Even before you touch down, you can’t help but notice the basalt rock that constitutes much of the island, the pumice that impart a red color to the land, and the ground fissures that seem to be almost everywhere. It all gives Iceland an extraterrestrial look.

Our next stop was the bishopric of Skálholt which was not only reported to be Iceland’s largest town at one point, but it was also the country’s cultural and religious center. In the 12th century, a cathedral was constructed on the site from timber that had to be imported from Norway. When Iceland was settled in the 10th century, about 30-40% of the land was covered with trees. Only a few patches of birch trees now exist, but a large reforestation program is underway. Today, a new church stands on the same site but archeologists are actively digging in and around the area. After another short bus ride, we arrived at the stunning double water fall of Gullfoss. We stayed just long enough to get drenched by the rain and mist and to enjoy the gorgeous views before reboarding the bus to visit the geothermal fields at Geysir. Once there, we sauntered around looking at bubbling hot pots and waiting for the geysers (the word originated from this location) to spew.

Our final stop was the national park of Thingvellir (or Þingvellir). Iceland is bisected by the mid-Atlantic Ridge which means that half of the country is on the Eurasian tectonic plate and half on the North American plate. Most of the ridge is deep in the Atlantic Ocean but it appears on land in Iceland as a large rift. The rift and surrounding park played a significant role in Icelandic history since the first Viking settlement. Once a year at Thingvellir (meaning "assembly plains"), new laws and amendments would be read from the Loberg or "law rock" to a group of leaders and officials gathered below. This assembly, known as the Althing, was the first European parliament and continued successfully for nearly 900 years.

The Strokkur geyser
A geyser lets off some steam.


The alter at Skálholt cathedral.
Portrait of Christ at Skálholt.


New laws were read to the assembly at Thingvellir.
The Loberg at Thingvellir.

The mid-Atlantic Ridge forms a rift at Thingvellir.
A view of the rift at Thingvellir.

Kerith was formed from a collapsed volcano.
Kerith crater lake.

Solidified lava flow.

The Blue Lagoon

After a grueling day of getting in and out of the bus and rain, we were looking forward to a relaxing evening (it never gets dark in Iceland this time of year) at the Blue Lagoon. This spa is built into the basalt and its geothermal seawater is rife with minerals and bacteria that are touted to have medicinal benefits. The white silica mud that imparts the water’s iridescent blue appearance is available to use as an exfoliate. We floated, steamed, sauna-ed, and exfoliated for several hours before catching the bus back to Reykjavik.

The iridescent blue color comes from the white silica in the water.
The water is eriely blue.

Blue Lagoon has a whole line of bath and body products available online.
One of Iceland's biggest tourist stops.

J kicks back in the Blue Lagoon
J kicks back in the thermal pools.

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