“The weekend after Labor Day,Kevin and I went to Iceland for a long weekend. It was one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever been on. We hardly relaxed and had activities scheduled every day, but it was the best way to see as much as possible in three days, and although we didn’t get a ton of sleep, it was totally worth it.
We fly to Reykjavik on Thursday night. It was only a five hours flight from NYC but they are four hours ahead, so we technically got there on Friday morning. I knew we were going to be tired, so I purposely planned to hang out in the Blue Lagoon for the day. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa and one of the largest tourist spots in Iceland. I was a little worried it was going to be over crowded and gross, but the facilities were actually very clean and the Blue Lagoon is large enough that even though there were a few hundred people there, there was plenty of space to float/lounge around. I booked through Viator and our tickets included towels, a cocktail from the bar (they have a swim up bar at the edge of the lagoon which was awesome), and an algae mask. They also had a large bucket so people could help themselves to a clay mask as well. I tried both masks and I liked the algae mask best. It made my face feel a lot softer.
During our short time in Iceland, we learned a lot about the country and their culture. They really love their geothermal baths and swimming pools. The Blue Lagoon is a popular tourist destination, but there are a lot of other smaller geothermal pools that more adventurous travelers can go to. They also have quite a few outdoor pools and apparently is it very common for the locals to visit the pools almost delay to relax; it is a part of their daily ritual.
After floating around in the Blue Lagoon for a few hours, we had a late lunch at their restaurant, Lava, which was pretty good, and then we hopped back on the bus to take us back to our hotel.
On Saturday we woke up early and were picked up by a bus again for the day’s adventure. And boy was it an adventure. Good thing we only chilled in the Blue Lagoon the day before, because we had a very active Saturday. First we went scuba diving. You probably thought I mis-typed that because it’s pretty cold in Iceland, but nope, you read correctly. We went scuba diving in the Silfra fissure which is actually a crack between the North American and Eurasian continents where the continental plates meet and are drifting apart about 2cm per year. The water is glacial water which basically means it’s fucking freezing. It was about 3.1C which is only 37.58F.
It was also Kevin and my first time diving in dry suits. I wasn’t sure what to expect because PADI has a whole separate training on diving in dry suits and it seems a little more complicated than diving in wet suits, but with our BCD it was totally fine. The hardest part of the dive (other than the freezing water) was the walk to the dive site with all of the equipment. Iceland does a good job with trying to preserve the land, so despite some ridiculous complaints about needing a golf cart or something (seriously people?) to get to the dive entrance, they have people walk a little less than a quarter of a mile with their tanks and gear. When I first entered the water, it felt like I had the worst brain freeze of my life times ten. Your whole body is covered in protective layers except for your head and face which get wet. The cold water made my temples pierce, and for the first ten minutes of the dive I was regretting doing the dive and kept telling myself that I never had to do it again.
It wasn’t until my head stopped pounding that I really began to enjoy myself. I got my breathing under control and started to enjoy my surroundings. I dove in a cenote in Mexico before so I’ve been on dives without wildlife, and usually it’s not as exciting as diving reefs and seeing beautiful, neon fish, but this dive was pretty spectacular. Becauseit is glacial water from the nearby Langjج¦kull and the water is filtered through porous underground lava for 30-100 years until it reaches the north end of Thingvellir lake, seeping out from underground wells, the Silfra water is very clear. Visibility is an astounding 150 meters.
There are apparently a lot of underwater caves there as well, but since Silfra is in a national park and a few too many dumb tourists got themselves killed in the caves, they don’t let people explore any of the caves. I still had fun though.Silfra is the only place where someone can dive or snorkel directly in the crack between two continental plates.
After our dive, Kev and I changed out of our dry suits (which luckily kept me dry and pretty warm except for my head) and hopped back in a van that took us back into town in Reykjavik. We grabbed a quick bite to eat in the city center at a sandwich spot called Holla Batar and then explored the town for a few minutes. I got a cute troll ornament because Icelanders believe in trolls and fairies, and then per our guide’s suggestion, we went to the well-known Kolaporti flea market to find a cheaper, authentic Icelandic sweater. I was able to find one that I liked and I wore it for the rest of the trip. After our little spontaneous shopping, we got picked up for the second part of our adventure: lava caving.
Lava caving was a very unique experience. Thecaves are lava tubes whichis a natural conduit formed by which moves beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. Whenthe lava flow ceased and the rock cooled it left a long, cave-like channel which is what we went caving in. The cave was full of cool rock formations and different colors of hardened lava. When we signed up to go caving, I imagined it was going to be similar to the cave we walked and swam through in Xplor Park in Playa del Carmen a year ago which was a very easy, leisure cave walk, but the lava cave was a little more difficult. There was a few points inside the cave where we had to crawl in a plank position in order to get through. It was a really cool caving experience and it’s amazing to think that it was formed by flowing lava. It was a good thing that we had helmets with lights and flashlights because it was pitch black in the cave.
On the last day we did the Golden Circle tour which was a full day trip and an excellent way to see more of the beautiful country. We stopped at a smaller waterfall, Faxafoss, where we also saw farmers herd in their sheep and separate the sheep and lambs for lamb meat 🙁 Then we went to the huge Gullfoss waterfall (the “”golden falls””) followed by checking our the geothermally activevalley of Haukadalur.The geyser Strokkur erupts every 5-10 minutes, so we got some great footage of that. We ended the excursion with a walk in Thingvellir National Park, home of the Viking parliament, and a quick stop overlooking a geothermal power plant.
After being dropped off at our hotel, Kevin and I went into the town of Reykjavik for dinner. We found a cute, quiet spot to have dinner and a beer. Then we walked around the city for a little, saw the grand Hallgrimskirkja church, and people walking along the Faxa Bay as the sun set. The next morning we headed back to NYC.
Our trip to Iceland was one of my favorite trips to date. I am in love with the country and I look forward to going back someday. Iceland is basically a large island made of lava rock. The land looks green because moss covers most of the lava rock, but it took many years for even that to grow and underneath it all is hard, uneven lava rock. I think it’s neat that there is so much geothermal activity and the country can rely on it’s natural resources. I also find it admirable that despite really harsh winters, the people who live there seem very nice. Iceland is a well educated country but there is something about them that is still idyllic and not as rushed as the life I’m used to in New York. Even though we were rushing about from activity to activity, as corny as it sounds, my soul felt at peace there.