We awoke to a fantastic snow storm. After quickly checking out of Hotel Gulfoss (the internet was back!) We headed down the road to Geysir. Again, after the visiting the likes of Old Faithful at Yellowstone, this seems quite small. However, the history behind it is fantastic. This is the first known geyser, and while “Geysir” the first geyser is defunct, there is still quite a bit of activity in the area. The side of the road which is usually home to mud puddles is full of steaming water. The walking tour up the mountain is by donation and is pretty fun to watch the other geysers erupt. We were surprised that they didn’t make the same sound as Yellowstone. There was very little noise with the eruptions at Geyser, making it a fun surprise every couple of minutes. Matt and I had our fill and stopped in the gift shop for what I thought would be a quick stop to grab a coffee. Be warned. This is an epic gift shop. The prices are inflated as with any other, but you can find everything in there. After purchasing a bit of new head gear, we continued down the road to the fascinating place of Thingvellir (Pronounced Thingvedtlur – note the Icelandic word starts with a letter that looks like a P with another leg on top of it..)
Thingvellir is the historical center of much of Icelandic history including the origination of a parliament in 930AD, the birth of Christianity in Iceland, a central point where laws were recited, and a hotspot of volcanic activity including Iceland’s largest freshwater lake and the rift where the North American and Eurasian plates are diverging by 2cm each year. It was fascinating to see it from the ground since we had an appreciation of what it looked like from the air from our flight yesterday. The hiking trail up to the flag pole, what they think is the location of the law rock, is littered with bits of history. The gift shop at the top has additional information that you can listen to for free. Note they do charge 200kr to use the rest room 🙂 It was exhilarating to look out on the valley from the flag pole and think about everything that had happened at this very spot. Thingvellir also appears in a couple of the Icelandic Sagas which are fascinating. If you like game of thrones, you will really enjoy the Icelandic Sagas. I am only 20 pages in and am already hooked.
We headed back down the hill and pointed our car to the blue lagoon. I was excited to experience a little more Icelandic Hospitality on our last night there. The Blue Lagoon is only 20 minutes from Keflavik airport so we figured it would be a great stop for our last night. We paid out the nose for a room at the Blue Lagoon Clinic since we were splurging for our honeymoon. We paid less for Hotel Budir so we were both thinking it could be a similar experience. We were very wrong.
We pulled up to a beautiful barren landscape of lava and steam. The Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel is about 600 meters from the actual Blue Lagoon spa. We checked in to find a true “clinic” atmosphere – complete with frigid staff. We were confused to find out that the “daily” admittance to the Blue Lagoon wasn’t actually daily. The person at the counter explained to us that they had a pool there that we could enjoy… for 4 very specific hours throughout the day. This was not even close to Budir at all. The room that we checked into was beautiful, but not totally functional. By this point, I needed an attitude adjustment. Instead of expecting a true Icelandic experience, Matt helped me reset my expectations. We were at a Theme Park. We would get just as much Icelandic Culture as one would heading to Disneyworld to get a true American experience. After that realization and a few deep breaths, I accepted the fact that we were about to pay a ton of money for a fabricated experience. Once I reset those expectations, I started smiling again.
My first impression of the Blue Lagoon was stressful. Again… I chanted “Theme Park” to myself. We checked in for our salt scrub treatment and to my surprise, were charged an extra 10,000kr ($65!!!) for entrance on top of the treatment price. Theme Park …Theme Park…. Theme Park. The woman threw a couple of bracelets at us and mumbled, “If you lose, we charge you”. And that was it. Theme Park….
My stress finally melted away as Oscar, a huge dude who looked a little like Matt took me into the water for my massage / salt scrub. The massage area is part of the public pool. He put me on a cool float mat and proceeded to rub salt all over me, dousing me with the warm lagoon water as he went. He matter-of-factly moved my swimsuit around so he could have access to whatever body part he was working on. I was also told to remove my suit down to my hips about 15 minutes in. For those of you familiar with TYR racing suits, this is like putting on jeans when you are soaking wet. I did have a moment while we were there where I though… “So there I was… naked in a public pool in Iceland, underneath a drenched warm blanket, while Oscar removes my dead skin from my butt…”. It was pretty epic when he then floated me out into the middle of the pool and gave me a 30 minute massage while I enjoyed total buoyancy. It was very epic. Matt enjoyed his just the same. Stress melted away from both of us and prepped us to enjoy our lagoon theme park.
The Lagoon also has silica mud available while you soak in the waters. Rubbing this all over you makes your skin incredibly soft (and as I found out later – turns your hair into dreadlocks… after 5 days of showers it’s still not back to normal). There is a swim up bar where you can order beer and smoothies and, of course, charge it to your bracelet. After another hour of soaking and enjoying each other’s company, we headed inside to see about some dinner. It was the first time I was actually hungry since coming to Iceland since I had skipped breakfast. I was thinking since it was Theme Parkish it would be a mediocre overpriced experience… I was wrong!
Lava, the restaurant overlooking the lagoon looked extremely fancy. We decided to see what the chef could do for us with the “Chefs Choice” 4-course menu with wine pairings. It was spectacular. The duck confit starter, pork, salmon and beef tenderloin were all cooked and paired to perfection. The staff even put all of the desserts onto one plate for us since we were having trouble deciding. We left very relaxed, happy and with very full bellies. We were thankful that our hotel was within walking distance. The experience was on the expensive side, but I paid more the last time I was at Disney, so as far as theme parks go, we were very happy.
The next day we woke up and headed to the airport for a little duty free shopping. Returning the car was a snap – the gas station is right by the rental renturs. Had we to do it all over again we probably would have saved all of our shopping until the airport. They had everything we wanted right there in the duty free shop. Also, note for next time – if you shop outside of the airport, you can get your tax back when you get to the airport if you keep all of your receipts. For the big purchases, you will need to get a stamp at the airport before you go through security. It was hilarious – very reminiscent of the wizard of oz. You walk up to a small window, hand over your receipt, they stamp it and then close the window really quick. Once you get through security, there is a tax refund counter right next to the bank. Keep in mind they charge a fee to get it back in cash.
Our quick 7 hour flight back gave us enough time to finish writing, reminisce over the amazing experience and get excited about heading back again in September for our friend’s wedding. We are already looking forward to being back!