If we learned one thing on our trip, it is that the best way to combat being a little chilly is by soaking in a hot spring. This country excels at geothermal pools, and we didn’t go a day without hitting one up. We went to Gamla Laugin (pictured, top), Seljavallalaug pool (pictured, bottom right and left), Laugardalslaug in Rejkyavik (the public pool right next to the campground in the city where we parked our van in lieu of a hotel!), and the river spring in Reykjadalur Valley right off the Golden Circle.
My favorite was the Seljavallalaug pool because of the way it was tucked up in the mountains. As we hiked, we questioned whether we were crazy because there was no way that there could be a hot tub way up in the hills that we were traversing. When we finally came upon the pool, we realized that we’d discovered a hidden treasure. It was also fun to get to soak in the hot tubs at Laugardalslaug in Rejkyavik with some locals. They told us where to go for dinner and what we should see in the city. It wouldn’t have been a complete trip if we hadn’t taken some time to make friends along the way.
We heard from some that the Blue Lagoon was a tourist trap and from others that it was a must-see. The people that are iffy about this place may want to have their heads examined- it is unlike anything that we’d seen before and was such a treat to soak in. We are so glad that we saw this corner of the world. Since the Blue Lagoon is near the airport, we experienced it early in the morning before our afternoon flight. The silicon masks saved our skin before we boarded our plane. 100% worth the price of admission.
Snorkeling the Silfra Fissure
Snorkeling in the space between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates is not to be missed. The water is fresh from a glacier and filtered through lava before it fills the fissure, so visibility is beyond 100m! It is also freezing cold, so we wore dry suits (think a warmer version of a wet suit- the water can’t get to your skin) with our long underwear and wool socks underneath to stay warm. We’ll be honest- we were SUPER apprehensive about getting in the 2 degree water…
One man told us not to worry, our faces would go numb right away so it wouldn’t feel cold. We summoned up our courage and climbed in the glacier-fed fissure. It was mind blowing to peek down into the rift and to remember that we are all just shifting around on tectonic plates. Yet again, Iceland reminds us that we are small and that the world is huge. After our swim, we went overboard with piping hot chocolate and hiked through Þingvellir national park to take in the history.
Glacier Tongues, Volcanoes and Sneaking Behind Waterfalls
We were astounded by the beauty of the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue. Standing in the valley and taking in the glacier is a sight like no other. You remember why this place is called the land of fire and ice, because you are not far from the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano. (Wifi in the van allowed us to spend an hour watching HILARIOUS videos of newscasters trying to pronounce this during the 2010 eruption). The glacier is just down the road from Skógafoss waterfall, so these two sites are a package deal!
Take a jump behind Skógafoss, but don’t slip!!
Skógafoss may be one of the more famous, but it isn’t the only waterfall we saw. You can’t round a bend without Iceland showing off with a display of powerful water falling off of a humongous cliff. We found this fall on the side of the road and got to enjoy it from behind. New rule- make a wish every time you are behind a waterfall (TOP SECRET: I wished for coconut Skýr at the next gas station)!
Gullfoss is another waterfall that you absolutely can’t miss. Its on the Golden Circle and on the Hvítá (White) river. The water comes from Iceland’s second largest glacier, mighty Langjökull. We saw the most beautiful double rainbow while walking down to the waterfall. I tried to reach out and grab the rainbow, but it moves super fast.
The Getting Lost Part…
Our favorite parts of the trip were the random adventures and memories that we made when we stopped on a whim to see horses, waterfalls or to have the best ice cream of our lives. Life is all about the journey, and being in a campervan won’t let you forget that. Stop for every opportunity!