Iceland: Akranes and Reykjavik

Icelandic beach

The morning after our post-midnight sunset, we woke to a cloudless sky (a rarity in Iceland) and breakfasted with Borghilder on her deck, overlooking the ocean. As parting gifts, she gave us CD’s of her daughter’s indie rock band, Cosmic Call.

The we went in search of the ceramicist Kolbrun Kjarval’s in-home studio, because Jamie remembered her from her last time in Akranes and is a tentative collector. Kolbrun didn’t answer her phone, so we slipped through a gate into her courtyard, where we found the tiny, firecracker of a 70-ish year old woman sunning herself on a lounger, her skirt pulled to the top of her thigh. She was not happy to see us.

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West Iceland: Reykholt, Hraunfossar, Barnafossar and Akranes

West Iceland

So…we passed the stormy night in the car without incident and of course, about 3 km down the road, there was a guesthouse and restaurant where we could have slept comfortably and gotten a reaaaaally good deal, since it’s in bumfuck and appeared to have not a single guest.

We got coffee and picked up some area pamphlets, which then derailed us for the next hours. We have this thing for geothermal pools, right? And what’s better than a “natural” pool, just off the side of the road, without tourists or facilities? Something we would practically stumble upon along a short hike, and then proceed to lounge in nude, just because we can, gazing at the pastural scenery?

One of the pamphlets (which, come to think of it, was pretty dusty and probably a decade old) promised that pool, in a tiny, offhand blurb. So we set off, following the scant directions, turning down gravel roads and backtracking multiple times. Finally we saw another car stopped on the side of a deserted road and figured they had to be looking for the same spot.

These Canadians were smart. They had a book of natural hot springs and a GPS. So we let them go ahead before following at a scarcely discreet distance (probably ruining all of their bathing nude dreams), crossing an (icy—I checked) creek by inching along an ancient, fat pipe and then climbing a hill with such a small trickle running down it, you could hardly call it a stream (the water did get progressively warmer but never hot). Then we came across the Canadians again. They’d found a tiny, hot-ish hole, suitable for a person and a half, and had decided to call it a day. We walked further up but found nothing wide enough to consider a pool, and then headed back, so the Canadians could nestle on each other’s laps in privacy.

On the way back, I think we actually found the “pool” pictured, which was lukewarm and covered with a thick layer of green moss. So much for becoming wood nymphs.

snorristurlsonhome

So, three hours delayed, we headed towards Reykholt, a cultural center and church and the former home of Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), a historian, politician and author of Iceland’s historic sagas. The drizzle was back as, in less than an hour, we took in the quaint, teensy church (with a model ship suspended from the ceiling, a sort of charm to keep fishermen safe), Snorri’s outdoor geothermal bath and a large gift shop. There’s also an indoor area of exhibits but there was a fee, and our attention span was already kind of shot. (Btw, we missed The Sagas Museum in Reykajvik, but I’ve heard it’s great.)

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South Iceland: waterfalls and a hidden geo-thermal pool

We finished Steam Valley in early afternoon and on our way to Vik, hit up some of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. These sites were touristy but not so crowded that they weren’t enjoyable— at least, not in spring.

2da34-seljalandsfoss

Just off of Ring Road, Seljalandsfoss is 213 feet tall and sounds like the apocalypse. In spring and summer, you can walk a slippery path behind the falls and bask in rainbow-filtered spray.

Gljufurarfoss is a short walk from Seljalandsfoss. At 131 feet it’s smaller, but it may be my favorite Icelandic waterfall. I’d recommend first (carefully!) the small, steep path that takes you through a crevice, about 60 feet up. There’s a rickety wooden ladder that you can climb to lean against a rock lip, close enough to feel the spray from the falls. From there you can peer down into the hidden rock pool below. (No wonder Icelanders believe in fairies.)

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Iceland in Spring: Reykjavik and Reykjadalur

A kooky/brilliant/wonderful friend and I drove all around Iceland in late May, sleeping in hostels and abandoned churches and our car, and I meant to post about it forever ago, but the journal I kept while we were there got lost in my most recent move. I was so sad about that, I never posted.

I’m trying to stiff-upper-lip it and post now, although details are going to be a bit murkier without the journal. First off, absolutely go to Iceland in May. It’s cool but not cold, damp but not rainy, most touristy stuff is already opened, crowds are nothing like they will be during the summer and hotels and rental cars are (slightly) cheaper. Bonus — it stays light till about midnight, which means you get extra time for sightseeing.

We found a great deal on tickets (just over $200, round trip) on WOW airlines (beware the added baggage costs), but they only fly out of a few cities. So our road trip through Iceland started with a road trip up the United States east coast.

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