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Iceland…Land of Greenery

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

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Glaciers, lava, waterfalls, geysers and 10 dollar beers, what a country! Iceland is the extreme in the truest sense of the word. In one day you can see just about everything that mother nature can dish out and then you can finish it off with one of the most expensive meals on the planet.

We arrived in Reykjavik at 6:30am after a 4 hour flight from New York (yes, it´s only 4 hours from New York). We had set up a home exchange and were very happy to see our host waiting for us at the airport when we arrived. I cant say enough good things about doing a home exchange. We got to stay in a nice 2 bedroom house in a great neighborhood of Reykjavik, plus we had use of our host´s spare car the whole week!
On our first day we decided to do the golden circle route which is a 100 mile drive that goes to some of the top spots in Iceland. We hiked in the valley that was created by the separating of the Atlantic tectonic plate and the Eurasian tectonic plate. This area has had some incredibly large earthquakes over the last millennium and you can see where one plate has ridden up higher than the other (check out our pics). In between these plates, there is a large fissure where a lake has formed and is home to some of the clearest water on the planet with up to 300-400 ft visibility, and yes, you can scuba dive there. If it wasn’t for the $500 price tag for one dive, we would have been game since its rated as one of the top 5 dives in the world. Who would have guessed, you could scuba dive in Iceland. Our next stop was Geysir, where the actual word geyser comes from. It´s an area where the ground is smoking everywhere, water is boiling in a bunch of pits and there is one geyser that shoots a huge plume of water up about 40ft every 10 minutes. It was incredible to see even though it felt like the whole place was going to explode any minute. Our last stop on the route was Gulfoss waterfall. All I can say is, pictures do not do the place justice. What really surprised us was how close the waterfall we could actually get. There were no ropes or railings to keep you from falling over the edge!

Day two arrived with a vengeance from mother nature, sideways rain and 38 degree temps, the Iceland specialty. Iceland is known for their wind and, boy did we get a good dose of it. We tried to do a hike on a lava field next to the ocean but after 10 minutes we were so cold and wet that we decided today would be a good day for the Blue Lagoon- Iceland’s famous geothermal lagoon. Swimming in 95 degree aqua marine water in the middle of a lava field with rain pouring down was quite an experience. You felt like you were on another planet with steam rising everywhere and all you can see is lava rocks. Oh, and the white stuff on Christy´s face is a sort of mineral mud that you smear all over your skin to make you oh so soft.

Day 3 brought crystal clear sunshine and cold temps. It actually snowed the night before and all the hills were covered in snow, IN SEPTEMBER! We drove to an area called Porsmörk, about 125 miles from Reykjavik. We spent the day hiking to incredible waterfalls, hiking on glaciers and walking out on an incredible cliff that dropped straight into the ocean. It might have been one of the most incredibly beautiful areas I have ever seen. The crazy thing about Iceland is that there are only 300,000 people that live here and the majority live in Reykjavik. So once you leave town, you´re pretty much alone. We felt like we were the last people left on the planet.

We celebrated Christy´s birthday on our 4th day in Iceland. Unfortunately, the weather gods could care less who´s birthday it was and we were socked in with more sideways rain and near freezing temps. We thought that we needed a little culture anyway, so we spent the day in a great museum learning about the Vikings. We also had our first meal in a restaurant (we cooked every meal at the house, yeah I´m cheap and its damn expensive here-30 bucks for a bowl of spaghetti). But, for Christy’s birthday, spare no expense…ok, we still drank water at the restaurant since a beer is 10 bucks.

On our final day we set off on a hike to an area known for lots of geothermal activity. Meaning, the entire place looked like it was going to erupt at any minute, giant holes in the ground with steam shooting out from the boiling water inside. We hiked a trail where all around us huge plumes of steam were rising out from the ground and there were bubbling pools of water everywhere. After hiking up through the snow we came down to a valley with a stream running through it. The stream was nice and hot so we found a deep spot and hopped in. Sitting in a stream with mountains all around you and steam rising up everywhere was a surreal experience. Of course getting out, Christy almost froze but it was well worth it.

We´ll definitely be back to Iceland. We were blown away by everything. If you are into the outdoors, you gotta come here. Just be prepared for the crazy weather and crazy prices. Tomorrow we head to London for 4 days and then it´s off to Ireland.