Day 2 started nice and early as we were still on UK time so an hour behind so 7:30 felt pretty reasonable. We had tried to book all our hotels to include breakfast as a way to save money and to be far more convenient. We can be up, fed, and out exploring in less than 45mins with a hotel breakfast. At the Center Hotels Plaza, the breakfast was really quite good. This is not American breakfast, but it was a bit more than the basic toast and cereal we expect. So we loaded up on tea and coffee, toast cereal bacon eggs sausages, and a few muffins to help sustain us for the day.
We planned a light itinerary for our arrival day, but our first full day was packed. As this was to be our first time in Iceland we decided to tackle the tourist-orientated Golden Circle right off the bat. So we planned to head straight to Thingler National Park, spend some time exploring there then Geysir Geothermal Area before hitting Gulfoss and then the Kerid Crater on the way back. We also considered taking a dip in the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River but there was something brewing that would put pay to that.
Iceland in late September early October can expect fairly cold but quite moderate weather. We went with the expectation of cool breezes and frigid clear days, but being in the middle of the Atlantic and pretty far north, the weather can certainly be fickle. And while it was certainly still very early in the winter snowstorm season, a pretty big storm was brewing up just offshore.
As we left for Thingvellir National Park the cloud base was dropping and the wind was picking up. By the time we arrived, the snow was falling pretty hard and the wind was really picking up, by the time we left the storm was in full swing and blizzard conditions were in effect!
We did not let this weather affect our visit and we hiked down through the continental rift, explore Silfra, some nice waterfalls, Deadman’s walk, and generally just took in the impressive geological topography. Having been banned from the USA for months on end due to the Pandemic it felt really nice to finally set foot on the continent again, sure we were pretty far from making it back to the states but this was a close as we were getting until November!
The Snow was really picking up so we decided to push on and get down from the highlands. The frigid storm had a few upsides and a few big downs. The driving wind and snow made things pretty hard going and very cold and also brought low clouds which obscured the scenery, but on the plus side, it was very quiet and the snow really brought a wild and rugged feel to the trip making it a real adventure when really we were just on a heavily trod tourist trail!
As we pushed on the snow turned to sleet and rain and the cloud lifted a little. We arrived at the Geysir Geothermal area a explored the area for a while. There is not too much to see here but it’s quite interesting, however without the star of the show it would probably be worth skipping, but you simply can’t miss out on Strokkur.
Strokkur is one of the few natural Fountain Geysers in the world that erupts with regular frequency, and certainly one of the most accessible, rivaled really only by Old Faithful for accessibility, reliability, and frequency. This 100ft expulsion of water really is something to behold. The stunning blue pool suddenly bulging outwards with bright white bubbles appearing from the depth before exploding upwards with incredible force and noise. In the short time we were there Strokker erupted 7-8 times with varying degrees of ferocity.
The area is also home to numerous fumaroles, continuous Geyser springs, mud pots, and of course the famous Great Geyser, the actually gave the name to all subsequent geysers worldwide. Unfortaunelt Geyser itself is not erupting at the minute.
We feel this is also a good point to mention one of Iceland’s … features. The country really stinks! As you drive around you are continually bombarded with various aromas that are unusual, unexpected, and often quite revolting! The most common being the distant smell of rotten eggs.
This is the hydrogen sulfide gas emitted by the volcanic activity going on under the surface, but it’s pretty unpleasant and at locations such as this it can be really strong and a bit stomach-wrenching, we also found it played havoc with our breathing! We also regularly got the Sulfur Dioxide aroma too which is more like the smell of burnt matches. We kind of got used to it and it’s all part of what makes Iceland so intriguing but it is rarely mentioned!
Next on the tourist trail was Gulfoss. This powerful waterfall cascades down into a 100ft crevasse in thunderous volumes as the Hvita Riva winds its way down from the highlands. It is a wonderous display of the might water really can possess and allows you to get really close and feel the enormous power of the torrent.
The day was by now very overcast but the sleet and rain had eased up as we explored the waterfall However the perpetual spray meant things were still soggy and the howling wind and frigid temperatures ensure our visit was fairly brief.
We were now at the furthest point from Reykjavik and had quite a drive back to complete the 160-mile loop. On the way back we planned to stop at the Kerid Crater.
Kerid Crater and bac kto Reykjavik
We had a brief visit to this colorful volcanic crater, filled with iridescent blue/green water. There is little to do here but hike around the crater and down to the lake. It’s pretty small and 15-20 mins is all this stop takes and we were back on the road.
As we approached the town of Hveragerði we considered the hike up to the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River something I was very keen on before the trip. But with the light seemingly fading, over 30miles (45km) back to Reykjavik over a high mountain pass and the Snow Storm resurging with 30-40 mph winds and near-freezing temps, the thought of a long hike to strip off to bath in a river seemed to mad to contemplate.
With hindsight this was a great decision as things up on the pass were about to get wild and the delay could have seen us not make it over that evening!
As we climbed up over the high pass that separates the south from the capital the storm really bore down and driving snow was covering the road. This was route one so a highly trafficked and treated road surface but the storm was too much and conditions were worsening. While things were bad we were still well within our comfort zone but being in a new country and a bit unsure on how things like recovery go all add to the nerves as we picked our way through the snow.
As we came down off the pass things picked up but it was clear the storm was raging behind us and people coming to the pass later would have real difficulty.
Back Safely at the hotel and we were pretty exhausted. It may “only” have been a 160-mile loop but it really takes it out of you combined with all the steps and the high-stress driving conditions. As we left Kerid Crater, the light already had seemed to be fading, in fact, it had only been 4 pm and we had nearly 4 hours of useful light left but the sun never really got high enough to punch through the cloud cover and it had remained partly dark all day. As we arrived back in Reykjavik it was almost fully dark!
Tired and pretty weather-beaten we took to our hotel room for the evening and resorted to take-out pizza. Mandi’s Pizza was just across the blocks and while far from cheap was pretty decent and satisfying. We then just relaxed for the evening safe in the knowledge the trip would begin in earnest tomorrow!
Live Blog – Trip Report