Or should I say, halló?
Next month, I and a couple friends are taking advantage of a neat deal that Icelandair offers whereby you can extend a layover to up to seven days without paying anything extra. So, with effectively free airfare and three days and two wild Iceland nights to kill, I pulled together a wish list that I’d love to get advice on from past and future Iceland travelers out there. Ideally, the trip would stay frugal and still be adventurous. You might say it would be an adventure in frugal.
Let’s get started.
Morning breakfast and spa: We”ll start the day with a traditional Icelandic breakfast of hafragrautur and an egg.
Hafgrautur is oatmeal porridge! From there, we’ll head over to the Blaa Lonid or Blue Lagoon — a geothermal spa in the middle of a lava field, which heats the mineral-rich water to around 100 degrees. We’re going because look at this:
Look at it!
Entry packages range from $50 to $230, with the difference in price largely coming from getting to use the spa’s towels, slippers, and so forth.
Midday nap: We’ll head over to the place we rented from AirBnB for a nap. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I prefer renting from AirBnB over hotels because it’s cheaper (This time, about 1/3 cheaper than the cheapest hotel), gets us close to the city center, and approximates something closer to what a local lives like, rather than staying in a cookie cutter hotel that looks no different from its New York counterpart.
Evening architecture and booze: We’ll start by swinging by Hallgrimskirkja, which is the second-tallest building in the country and a church whose design was inspired by lava formations.
One fun fact is that it’s less than half the height of the 100th tallest building in New York, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t a competition.
We’ll then hit the town, to take part in the runtur, which is the crawling from bar to bar that happens every weekend across Reykjavik. Perhaps to make up for lost time — prohibition wasn’t lifted in Iceland until 1989 — the runtur apparently goes strong until past 4 a.m. We won’t hit it that hard, but I’ll definitely sample some of the Icelandic beers. This one called Skjalfti from Olivisholt Brugghus sounds nice.
Saturday and Sunday
And that’s where the planning has sorta ended. Here are some candidates with what to do with the next couple days:
Ride Icelandic horses in Hveragerdi
Icelandic horses have short legs and grow thick coats in the winter and look both functional and whimsical all at once.
Hveragerdi, about 45 minutes southeast of Reykjavik, had its landscape shaped into jagged, brightly colored formations by the central Hengill volcano it sits atop.
I imagine that the two combined would feel like being on a different planet.
Gullfoss is a waterfall that looks ridiculous.
Just look at it! It’s about 1 1/2 hours northeast of Reykjavik and depending on the angle of approach, either looks like a river that can’t decide which way it wants to flow or like a lake being swallowed deep into the earth. As a bonus, Thingvellir and the Haukadalur geysers are within spitting distance. OK, here’s another picture of that waterfall:
Mount Kirkjufell is an oddly shaped mountain that sits atop a peninsula near Grundarfjordur — a town two hours north of Reykjavik. The sky, the surrounding water, and nearby waterfalls all contribute to a view that looks otherworldly.
I suppose it wouldn’t be an Iceland trip without seeing a glacier. After all, one glacier, Vatnajokull, covers eight percent of the country (FWIW, Texas covers about eight percent of the continental U.S.). Breidamerkurjokull is a breakaway chunk of Vatnajokull slowly making its way to the ocean, but for now, is stuck in Jokulsarlon, a glacial lake nearly five hours from Reykjavik.
A number of organized tours make their way through the glaciers by snowmobile, jeep, or by foot on a hike — for a price, of course.
The remoteness of Iceland from the light pollution of the rest of Europe and its proximity to the magnetic north pole seem to make it an optimal location for waiting until it gets dark and looking up. Two examples:
Yes, we’ve all seen the Milky Way, but like this? This was taken near— a mere half-hour drive from Reykjavik.
Oh look! It’s our old friend Mount Kirkjufell, but this time, bathed in the glow of the aurora borealis or northern lights. It’s like I always say; if you let solar wind get attracted to our magnetic poles, then it might just smack into the atmosphere and create a crazy light show for all to see.
Oh man, this is going to be nuts.
Why don’t we finish with a poll then: