I am sad that this trip is coming to an end for multiple reasons. I do not get to see the aurora borealis on a regular basis, and I have less vacation time when I return to work. However, for once I do not have to say goodbye to Andy at the airport/end of the trip.
We wanted to be back to Reykjavík a day before our flight left to pack our bags and head back to the hotel room we had. We still wanted to see more outside of the city, so we decided to detour from Ring Road and head to the Golden Circle Route.
The Aurora Borealis just north of Reykjavík
Golden Circle Route
We woke up and started to get around. Andy took a shower. I attempted to, but we ran out of hot water. We cooked the remaining eggs for breakfast and cleaned up the cabin and repacked our packs. We drove Ring Road with its amazing views with sand and dust storms today due to high winds. We drove to Vík, planning on buying gas there. However, the gas stations only take credit cards with pins. We were not going to pay with our debit cards because we did not want to get charged all the international fees, so we crossed our fingers and continued driving hoping to make it to Hekla.
We saw many Icelandic horses and missed a good photo of a few in a braided river with snowy mountains in the background because we were afraid to stop before filling up with gas. We made it to the gas station we had been to three times before in Hvolsvollur with the car computer saying we had 0 km before being empty. We filled up the car, bought coffee, switched drivers, and back-tracked to see if the horses were still where they were when we passed the first time. They were not, so we continued on Ring Road until heading to the Golden Circle route. We turned off Ring Road at Route 30 and headed north. The landscape on this portion of the drive was not as spectacular as it was going into Skaftafell, so I did not do a time lapse. We continued the drive and took Route 31, where we stopped to take pictures of the Icelandic horses with their rock-and-roll hair. The views were getting better with snow covered mountains adding to the horizon as we turned onto Route 35. We then turned onto Route 37 and arrived at Geysir.
Geysir is how all other geysers got named. We parked the car and walked to the geothermal activity. Strokkur is the most active geyser in the area that erupts ever few minutes. The weather was nice with sun and a few clouds with temperatures a little over freezing. However, the strong wind gusts made it colder than we could stand at times, so we did not hang around for long. Being curious on how often Geysir erupts, we went looking for information in the visitor area of the attraction. To our dismay, we only found a café and gift shop, so we made a note to look up the information once we had internet access. Its eruptions are unpredictable, unlike Old Faithful of Yellowstone.
We continued down Route 37 to Gullfoss waterfalls. It was extremely windy here due to the gorge where the waterfall is located. The water was a gorgeous blue with parts being icy or snow covered. We were only here for about 3 to 4 minutes before heading back to the car with numb fingers and playing dodge the tourist on our sprint back to warmth.
We then started our drive to Þingvellir National Park. We stopped at a pull off to switch drivers, so I could do a time lapse of the landscape for the remaining drive with a winter wonderland of snow dusting the ground and the mountains. We drove to the park and went to the historic parliament parking area. This is the first known parliament in history dating back to 930 and was used until 1789. The winds were dying down a little now, so we had more time to enjoy the views and the park. With neither of us being history buffs, we were only out of our car for about 20 minutes to continue our drive back to Reykjavík.
We drove through the park and past Þingvallavatn, which is the largest natural lake of Iceland. The dark blue lake and light blue skies mixed well with the snow for a picturesque view. We continued our drive (and my time lapse) back to the capital. We merged back onto Route 41 and Ring Road into the city with half a dozen roundabouts slowing us down and a view of the Esja volcanic mountain range. We got back to the Hilton and took all our belongings back into the room. We had a little time before meeting Andy’s Explorer’s Club of Pittsburgh (ECP) friend, Matt, and his dad at Micro Bar for some beverages. We also invited Rob and Neil to join us out for our last night.
I finally got my shower before heading out to meet up with Matt around 8 pm. We got to the bar and found out they did not serve food. The bartender pointed us to a fast food kebab store. We both ordered a lamb kebab and took it back to the bar to eat. We hung out for about an hour or so with Matt and his dad while trying various microbrews from Iceland. The bartender then told us the northern lights were supposed to be excellent and kept peeking outside to see if they were visible from the city. This enticed the group, and we said our farewells. While walking back to the hotel, we were able to see the lights from the city. I was trying to convince Andy to go outside of the light pollution for one last opportunity for pictures. He finally agreed once we were back in the hotel room. We put on our warm clothes and headed north through the roundabouts once more.
I took this picture on our walk through the City Center to Micro Bar.
We pulled off a little back road away from the main traffic. The light show was spectacular tonight with 180 degree views lighting up the night sky. The formations were swirling around us with various cycles of bright and dim lights. I got a few pictures and also took pictures of us in the frame. We were close enough to the car to jump in and out, which was a nice change to protect us from the wind gusts. We had brighter foreground tonight than the other two nights with the light pollution being factored into what direction we were shooting. We were only out for about an hour or so because the lights were already phasing out when we were driving out of the city. We both also had a long day of driving the Golden Circle route. We got back to the hotel around midnight and went to bed.
Below is my time lapse containing parts of our drive to Þingvellir National Park:
We woke up and got around for the day. We packed our bags for the flight and headed out of town once again. We decided to stop and eat breakfast at Café Milano before heading out to the fjords north of the city. We drove north on Ring Road to parts we had not driven on before. We drove through the Hvalfjörður Tunnel, which is 5.77 km in length or 3.6 miles. We drove to Akranes in hopes of wasting some time before heading back to the airport. With nothing to do, we decided to bypass the tunnel and drive around the Hvalfjörður fjords, which translates to whale fjords. We looked for whales on the drive, but we were unsuccessful. The wind was strong and picked up water from the fjords and was blowing it around. We looped around the inlet on Route 47 until it met with Route 1. This was the old way of driving to Akranes before the tunnel was built in 1998. We then drove past the city towards the airport and filled up with gas once more in case we had trouble finding one near the airport.
We drove on Route 41 towards Keflavik before detouring onto Route 43 to Grindavík passing the Blue Lagoon once more. We did not stop in the town, but continued to Route 425 to loop around the peninsula. We had to do some dirt road driving to get from the city and onto Route 425. We even saw some 4-wheelers driving the road until we came to the paved section. The road wound through mossy lava rocks near the coastline with views of the deep blue Atlantic Ocean. We turned off the main road to find Iceland’s oldest lighthouse, Reykjanesviti. The lighthouse did not have the best of lighting for photos, so we caught a glimpse and headed to the airport to catch our flight. We walked through a very geothermal area with boardwalks and pungent sulfur aroma to get to the lighthouse. We could still taste the sulfur after leaving the area.
Geothermal Activity near Grindavík
We drove the rest of Route 425 until Route 43. Route 43 took us back onto Route 41 towards the airport, where we stopped one last time to top off the gas tank. We then returned our rental car around 2:30pm and were shuttled to the airport by the rental company. We ate lunch and browsed the airport, but like everywhere else, everything was extremely pricy. Our flight was delayed for about 45 minutes, so I started to write in my journal since I hadn’t written more than a day’s worth the entire trip! We boarded the plane and saw Neil and Rob a few row ahead of us. They tried meeting up with us the night before but our timing was off. We had roughly a 7.5 hour flight ahead of us. I watched movies while writing in my journal and looked out the window as we flew over the Arctic Circle containing views of Greenland and frozen Canada. The views were amazing.
Bird-eyes view of Greenland
What is your favorite part of the Golden Circle?
More in this series:
- Iceland – Reykjavik and Super Jeep Tour
- Iceland – Skaftafell National Park & Jökulsárlón
- What Happens When a Country Does Not Have Enemies
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