Ryan and I landed in Reykjavik after a fairly short red-eye flight from New York but because of the time difference of four hours, we managed to arrive really jet lagged and in desperate need of sleep (it was 6am in Reykjavik!). Still being way too early to check in, we dropped our bags at Snorris Guesthouse and went for an early morning walk around the small city – there was something special about wandering around a beautiful little town that was still asleep. I loved seeing the colourful houses with lace curtains… I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them!
Iceland is full of the best Scandinavian design shops.
Hallgrímskirkja Church opened its doors and we were rescued from the cold for a while. We caught the lift to the top to admire the view and when we reached the top, it was like the town awoke. A rainbow appeared and the sun started shining. I knew I as somewhere special.
Breakfast was at Reykjavik Roasters, where I had the best bread, butter and cheese in my life. I’m not kidding, it was the best bread, the best butter and the best cheese! We watched people walk by, taking their children to school in their cosy outfits and we listened to people quietly speak to each other in Icelandic. I love how silent and serene Iceland is – it made for a real change coming from New York. We left breakfast completely jetlagged and went back to the guesthouse where we fell asleep on the couch in the tiny lobby until our room was ready.
After a few hours sleep, we dragged ourselves out of bed and went in search of Harpa, Reykjavik’s music hall. Reykjavik has a huge music scene, so it makes sense that a place of this caliber was built in the town. We missed out on seeing Bjork perform by a couple of weeks… how amazing would that have been?! Harpa was one of most beautiful buildings I have ever seen and I only wish I had booked a guided tour in advance.
We grabbed lunch/dinner at the most delicious bakery, Sandholt, before heading back for the night to get ready for our big road trip the next day. I’m so glad we had a full day in Reykjavik to help us overcome the jetlag and acclimatise to the crisp air!
I booked the Pearls of the South self-drive tour through the company Iceland Tours, which included everything we needed; car hire, GPS, emergency phone, itinerary and accommodation. I was a bit overwhelmed with the language barrier and felt that this was the best way to go about having a guided, but independent way of traveling. I definitely like going at my own pace! We arrived early Winter, in September, which meant we still had longer-than-usual days. We were able to explore the beautiful surrounds from early in the morning until all hours, and then stay up and watch the Northern Lights! You can really accomplish so much in one day… one day in Iceland is equal to three days in Perth.
Our first stop along the Golden Circle was only about 40 minutes into our drive, at Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of geological wonders of the world. You can see tectonic plate movement and cracks in the Earth’s crust.
After some time exploring Þingvellir National Park, we headed back to our car to drive to the famous Geysir area where the Strokkur hot spring ejects water every 5 or so minutes. You can also see small springs bubbling away deep into the Earth’s crust. It was pretty exciting to see the main one burst into the air and everyone watching were pretty thrilled by the experience!
We stopped to enjoy a hot bowl of soup in this road-side cafe next to the geysir. How cute is it?
With our bellies full, we continued our road trip another 10km to see the enormous waterfall, Gulfoss which falls impressively into a deep ravine. It was just magnificent.
Heading towards our accommodation for the night, we saw a sign on the side of the road and decided to see where it took us. We ended up at an enormous inactive volcano, Kerið which we walked around and felt incredibly small.
We continued our drive late into the day. Around 6pm we arrived at this little historical village and folk museum where we could see how people lived in past centuries. A stone’s throw away from these cabins is Skogafoss Waterfall, one of the highest in Iceland. The natural beauty of Iceland is just astounding – It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Our accommodation for the night was a little bed and breakfast, Guesthouse Drangshlíð which was only a few minutes up the road from Skogafoss. I had booked ‘basic’ accommodation through Iceland Tours, and it was pretty perfect. We had dinner that night at the hostel close to Skogafoss and spent the night awaiting the Northern Lights, which unfortunately didn’t make an appearance. The sun finally set around 11pm and we fell asleep in the absolute silence of the Icelandic country-side.