We're there, folks. Our last leg of the journey - our final week in Iceland.
We've made it halfway across the country to Mývatn, and with a 5 hour drive ahead of us to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula (good weather permitting), we were about to make full circle back to the Western coast of Iceland. In my mind, I was expecting flat, smooth, farmland... unbeknownst to me, we still had plenty of mountaintops to traverse, valleys to forge, and river-carved canyons to trace. The landscape continued to be nothing short of breathtaking, however, so forth we went, into the fog of the beautiful unknown.
Day 9 // Waterfall of the Gods and a Long drive
We were checking out of our hotel in Mývatn and awoke to our first clear and absolutely stunning Icelandic sunrise. She was quiet and humble, as her rose colored rays shone vividly through the thick clouds that blew in through the mountaintops in the distance. As hotel guests slowly arose from their slumber and crept out of their rooms for breakfast, I think they noticed us as we stood in the front balcony of the hotel snapping photos and they joined us with cell phones in tow. With luggage in hand, we swiftly made way to the parking lot and pulled our car up - we had a long journey ahead of us - 460 km, or 286 miles, to be exact. We only had 1 pit stop planned, besides the usual to get gas as needed, and our plan was always to get to our landmarks before any tourists were out and about.
Our only stop of the day was a powerful waterfall called Goðafoss, also known as the Waterfall of the Gods. Being it was the dead of winter, the falls were half frozen over, which allowed me to precariously walk over (hopefully not too thin) ice to get a closer view of the water. We were almost alone for much of the visit, and actually enjoyed quite a bit of time here which was so nice. The sun had already hidden itself behind the clouds, unfortunately, so the gray skies and blue ice made for some very cold looking conditions, but it only served as a great reminder as to why the country is called ICEland.
Crampons definitely necessary if you're wanting to walk on the ice here... the only other people who lingered here for a little bit were struggling to maintain composure and provided for some great entertainment when rewatching our drone footage.
After departing, we spotted a tour bus headed in our direction towards Goðafoss from the town of Akureyri, which is another popular city which we considered staying in but decided against since we felt there wasn't enough sightseeing to do in the northern region of Iceland and wanted to devote more time in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula where to were headed. It really is all about timing when you're in Iceland - leave just a tad bit later than scheduled and your visit to a landmark may be littered with tourists. Make it out the door just 15 or 20 minutes early and you may get a place all to yourself. It's worth getting up early and scarfing down that free breakfast quickly to grab those views if you don't want to elbow your way to grabbing that perfect shot!
Anywho, the rest of our day consisted just of driving - but it wasn't a bore at all. Remember, it's the journey and not always the destination; and in this circumstance, this was precisely why we wanted to road trip in the first place! There are so many things to see that you'd otherwise miss if you didn't venture through the country on your own.
Here are a few visuals to hopefully inspire you to safely do the same.
We arrived at our quaint little bed and breakfast located smack dab in the center of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula after a 5 or 6 hour drive. It was a small "hotel" better known for their adjacent and connecting cafe. Bellies empty and rumbling from a long drive, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice local Icelandic dinner. What was great about our new digs was that the entire hotel and cafe was family owned and operated, and we were oriented to the entire peninsula, all of the sights and local landmarks, and treated like house guests by the family that runs the place from the moment we stepped foot through their doors. We even received a hand-written and marked map that highlighted everything we'd possibly need to know about the area. Each and every morning we were there, the family updated us about the weather (and of course, the incoming storms) and warned us whether or not it'd be a good idea to explore parts of the peninsula. Such a homey environment and a great contrast from the contemporary hotel we'd just left behind in Mývatn.
For dinner, I ordered their special of the night, a duck "ramen" which after contemplating, I guessed would actually be more like pho - and I was right! From wandering the grocery stores, I'd made an educated guess that the noodles they'd probably be using were rice noodles, and when the dish came out, it more closely resembled pho than any ramen I'd ever had, but I have to admit, the duck was unbelievably tender and flavorful! Our server told us all specials of the day were caught that very day by the cook and his father... so I could imagine it was probably the freshest duck I'd ever had. Jason had some beef stew, and for dessert, we #treatyoself to some homemade apple pie, since Tripadvisor reviews said the cafe apple pie was to die for. It was definitely not as sweet or thick as American apple pie, but was soooo warm and just what we needed to round out our meal. Both of us could agree that we were just thankful to finally have some warm food in our bellies... as we scurried in the rain and wind back to our hotel room.
Day 10 // A Black Church and Sea Cliffs
Another storm with crazy 60+ mph winds was threatening the Northern coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula that day, so we had to push one of our sightseeing landmarks back the to following day where (we were hoping) the storm would diminish. Luckily, the Southern coast would only suffer light rain and winds until later in the evening, so we made haste with our morning before the winds blew in any more nasty weather.
Ölkelduvatn Mineral Spring
Our first pit stop was a last minute addition - something we decided to check out after speaking with the woman at the bed and breakfast since she mentioned an interesting mineral spring on a nearby farm that many locals historically visited to gather water from because they believed it had magical "healing properties". It was on our way, so we said heck, why not! This spring, called the Ölkelduvatn Mineral Spring, was literally just a pipe in the ground. We filled my water bottle with some bubbly water, took a sip, and I don't mean to be rude whatsoever, but spit it out. It tasted like potent as hell iron! And you could guess just by looking at the pipe and the surrounding grounds because the rocks were all red from the mineral deposits, but we had to give it a try anyway. If you're iron deficient, I'm sure this stuff would be wonderful, but it literally tasted like you'd bitten your lip and were drinking your own blood. Jason didn't get any footage of my face because I didn't try it until I'd gotten in the car but I definitely gagged. He held his composure much more than I did.
You've probably seen this church - the most popular black church of iceland, Búðakirkja of Búðir. It's infinitely popular in the realm of Icelandic weddings and elopements, and it sits atop a lava field along the Southern coast of the peninsula. It was a gloomy, rainy day when we went - we were the only tourists there for a short time, so traversing the church grounds was a bit eerie, but I didn't mind walking around in the muddy fields. I was just thinking about how funny it'd be if I were to find a face staring back at me through the windows when I looked back through my photos later (I never looked at the windows when editing them, though so I can't tell you if there were!).
Arnastapi and the Southern Coastline
Next on our list was the southern coastline, dotted with cliffs and jagged rocks, particularly along the edges of the city of Arnastapi. The first thing that greeted us upon entering the coast was a giant rock statue called the Bárðar Saga Snæfellsáss Statue. He stood quite tall and hovered over the entire coast - a great marker for tired hikers who needed a good way to find their way back to their car.
The cliffs along Arnastapi have viewpoints overlooking the basalt walls where you can watch the waves crash in and out of the sea caves. Birds dive up and down endlessly almost as if mimicking the ocean currents. There's also a large rock formation called Gatklettur, which is not only known for its large arch formation, but also acts as a home for hundreds of these sea birds as well. The coastline was icy and I was careless to leave the car without my crampons on this one time because the walkway looked clear from the lot. Oh Iceland, so full of surprises, but it was silly of me to assume!
Last up for our day along the southern coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula was Lóndrangar, a pair of large basalt rock formations resulting from erosion that sit right on the edge of the water that, to me, sort of resemble the points on a crown or tiara. By the time we'd gotten here, though, the winds had picked up so severely that climbing to the top of the hill to the viewing area was SO INSANE.
If it weren't for A) my crampons and B) the plastic honeycomb walkway contraption put in place to prevent mud from sliding down the hillside, I would NOT have been able to even stand up or gain any traction on the steep uphill climb. I would have been blown away by the winds coming over the hill from the ocean, and that would've been that. The strings on my jacket were whipping around so hard, they were smacking me in the face and I'm sure I looked super attractive with my runny nose and squinty eyes. I was even making sure my coat pockets were all closed shut so none of my belongings would fly out, and you bet the wind was catching in my hood and pulling me backwards so that wasn't helping me much either. It was definitely time to go after catching as many photos as I could, and as quickly as I could.
I don't have any fancy photos, but after we returned to the bed and breakfast, we cleaned up and ate at the cafe before they changed over to their dinner service and had probably the best dinner I'd had in Iceland. We both had some Icelandic meatballs in gravy which came with a salad topped with guacamole (yes - guacamole in Iceland, who would've guessed!). Think a higher quality version of Ikea but on a much grander scale. I was SO full! Absolutely delicious. The meatballs also came on a huge bed of potatoes. This warm meal was precisely what I needed to recharge for the night after getting beaten and battered by the storm.
Day 11 // A little bit of everything - Mountains, Geothermal Springs, Waterfalls, a Black Church, and Back to the City
You know that feeling when you have a bunch of loose ends, and you're just about to tie everything up? That's this day. Day 11. We're about to come full circle. Back to Reykjavík again - BUT not before a little more adventuring through another storm, and some sightseeing sprinkled in with a little bit of everything Iceland had to offer. On our way back, we still had to see that mountain situated on the northern coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula that we pushed back the day prior, then some more hot springs, a few more waterfalls, another black church (2 of 3 in all of Iceland), and then back on into the city after traversing an underground tunnel.
Let's go! .. into the storm, yet again.
Kirkjufell + Kirkjufellsfoss
Kirkjufell claims fame as the most photographed mountain in Iceland - unfortunately for us, it was pouring cats and dogs outside, and the winds did not let up from the day before. We were lucky enough to have even been able to make the drive there, so I'm actually more than happy with the shots we got from inside the car... before the huge tour bus pulled up next to us and blocked my entire view. I do wish we were able to go out and grab shots with Kirkjufellsfoss in the foreground (as so many others have), but I'm positive our gear wouldn't have held up in the pouring conditions and I wouldn't have been a happy camper sitting soaked on a 3 hour car ride into town so... you gotta weight the risks vs. benefits and this is what we got! We took the tour bus' arrival as our cue to leave and made our way out of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula... onwards back to the mainland!
p.s. Game of Thrones fans might recognize this mountain as "arrowhead mountain"
Our next stop is one of my top 3 most memorable places, not because of what we saw, but because of what happened.
We got herded. By an Icelandic sheepdog. It was amazing.
We pulled up to the location, per usual, guided by Google maps. In the middle of the parking lot was *the* fluffiest sheepdog you'd ever laid eyes on, just sitting there, WAITING for us. We steered the car to the right to sort of avoid the dog, but then he/she started barking at us and running alongside our car - we were being herded. I was so happy. See pictures below, because words cannot describe. Apparently this dog is famous because if you google "Deildartunguhver dog", you'll see its beautiful face, and you'll see it come up on Tripadvisor also.
Oh yea, this place is a small geothermal hot spring with water that literally bubbles out of the ground and splashes at you. But this place is worth it purely for the experience of being herded by an Icelandic sheepdog. Before we left, I made sure it was safe to give the dog pets, and it willingly obliged by rolling over on its side as I approached it. So fluffy. Like a rug. I guess you need a thick fur coat to stay warm in those sort of conditions.
12/10 best dog, but don't bother me bc i'm working.
Anyway - back to the geothermal springs, called Deildartunguhver! These were pretty violent springs, and they were also hard to photograph. It was like trying to photograph a boiling pot of water that was sitting on the surface of Mars - the steam kept fogging everything up, and half the time I was just trying to avoid getting hot water splashed on me. Very cool nonetheless, and if it weren't for the hot springs, we wouldn't have met this amazing dog.
Clear skies were officially ahead! From this point on, we were no longer on *storm alert* and could finally relax on our vacation without the threat of weather ruining our plans. We were expecting some negative degree temps to hit later towards the end of our trip, but without a drop of rain in sight and not a gust of wind to worry us, we were finally at ease.
But remember that storm that kept us from driving to the northern coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula the day before? Well, that storm caused this bus full of students to topple over. We drove by it and that's what I found out after doing a quick internet search. I'm totally not kidding when I'm telling you the storms in Iceland are insane! The adjustments we made to our itinerary were mandatory adjustments - not precautionary. We're weren't going to be those shithead tourists that don't heed warnings and die while on vacation... and you should try not to be also. Use common sense.
Hraunfossar + Barnafoss
Our final 2 waterfalls in Iceland went hand in hand - Hraunfossar + Barnafoss, also known as Lava Falls and Children's Fall. They look pretty tropical (surrounded by greenery, rivers filled with aqua-colored water) during the warmer months, but of course, it's the middle of winter so we had some pretty icy conditions to deal with.
Crampons were definitely required. See picture of anonymous child falling on ice if you don't believe me.
The fastest way back to Reykjavík was through the Hvalfjörður Tunnel, an underwater toll road that takes you 541 feet below ground and spans nearly 19,000 feet long. It takes about 5-7 minutes to cross through it, and costs $10 USD... but we thought the time it saved is and the experience was worth it! It wasn't our first Icelandic tunnel (they're super efficient with tunnels - especially through their large mountain peaks in the East Fjords and such), but it was neat to drive through one that went underwater.
I honestly haven't been in an undersea tunnel since being in the Channel Tunnel back in 2007. This tunnel felt much less claustrophobic, however! Worth a mere $10, since it was taking us directly to our next destination and we needed to get to Reykjavík relatively quickly to get some laundry done (hehe).
Our second black church of Iceland, and unfortunately our last - Brautarholtskirkja. We were only here a few short minutes, but luckily long enough to grab some shots of the church. We felt a little out of place because there really wasn't anywhere to park, and we felt as though we were in the way of the surrounding buildings and homes so we made haste and got out of there before anyone could notice.
I'm so enamored with these black churches though - if I could design my next home, I promise you it'd be black. And if you're wondering where the third and final black church of Iceland resides, I believe it's in the West Fjords - a place that was inaccessible to us at the time due to winter storms and harrowing conditions (i.e. major road closures) that prevented us from safely adding any of the West Fjords to our itinerary (but a stunning region if you're able to visit for yourself!).
Reykjavík and our New Home in the City
Back in the city! We made it full circle - safely across the entire island and back to Reykjavík in one, well technically, two pieces! We were now back with a home in an AirBnB, and we had luggages full of laundry to do. Our new apartment was located just a block away from the hotel we first stayed in upon our arrival, which meant we were also just a block away from all of the necessities we were familiar with from before.
And that beautiful Scandinavian decor? Still there, and now with the weather on our side and some space to put our feet up, we felt even more at home... especially with that huge pile of laundry we had to do.
Day 12 // Snorkeling the Silfra Fissure!
Today was a big day - we were going to go snorkel in the Silfra Fissure and there was no more backing out (Jason had cold feet all the way up until the day we left the Snæfellsnes Peninsula). No pun intended. The bad thing was, Jason's cough that he'd developed a few days prior was starting to worsen, and I was starting to develop some signs of congestion the night before that was quickly worsening as well. But we were going through with this no matter what!
Breakfast in the City
First thing's first, however, we needed to make sure we were fed so we walked into the city to a highly rated restaurant/bakery called Sandholt Bakery for some breakfast. Love at first sight - marble display cases full of pastries and sandwiches, and even taps (unused, however) along a wall in the middle of a bustling little restaurant.
We were seated in a nice cozy corner by the window, in a spacious booth with tons of soft pillows to cushion me. It was the perfect setting for a cold, crisp morning. We ordered some coffees, and you'll have to know that the baristas here are not strong on their latte art, but my bacon pecan pancakes were amazing!
Snorkeling the Silfra Fissure
To snorkel or dive in the Silfra Fissure, we had to drive back through the Þingvellir National Park, which is about 45 minutes outside of Reykjavík. We booked our tour through Dive.IS and we couldn't recommend them more. We first heard of them through our wedding photographer, who booked the same tour, and we're SO happy we went through with it.
I mean come on, you'll never get another chance to swim between tectonic plates AGAIN (unless you come back to Iceland, of course)!
When you arrive, dressed in some base layers, you're given a dry suit and are walked through and helped through how to get dressed in your wetsuit. They did a great job explaining the geography of the area and the exact route we were going to snorkel, and everything was crystal clear so we had no worries about what we were about to do whatsoever.
With flippers and goggles in hand, we walked over to the fissure, got strapped in, were taught how to acclimate to the FREEZING WATER, and basically floated on in. When you're in the water, only your hands and mouth area are exposed, so those are the only areas that truly get numb (but the coldness will eventually get to the rest of you!). It really wasn't that bad though since you lose feeling pretty quickly. Other than flopping your feet around a few times, it's nothing too intense until the current disappears towards the end of the swim... then it gets tiring if you're not used to swimming (which I haven't been in way longer than I'd like to admit).
I felt like I was a fish in an aquarium, though! The waters were crystal clear and visibility was as far as the eye could see. Everything was blue, aqua, and teal, and there isn't much life in the fissure itself since the water is filtered underground so if you're like me and don't care to swim with fish then you won't have to worry much. They say you can drink the water if you'd like, but I never tried. We were in the water for maybe 20 minutes or so? I was really cold and tired by the end of it, so I was ready to go back and change into dry clothes. Luckily they give you cookies and hot cocoa afterwards but the best part about the cocoa was honestly just holding it in my numb hands.
But guys -- this was THE coolest thing I'd ever done in my life thus far (which can't be saying much, but still). Highly recommend it if you're in Iceland, and some of the timeslots you choose are even offered at a discount so if it seems pricey, it's actually definitely worth all of the time and energy the tour guides spend with you!
All of our underwater pics are straight from our GoPro video - we didn't take any pictures since our hands had limited mobility in the diving gloves, and just a note, #nofilter - the water was definitely the color just as you see it! And take note, more underwater basalt columns!
Our tour guide was the coolest too. After some small talk over cookies with our dive group, he mentioned a local Icelandic brewery that he enjoyed and would take his parents to - this obviously piqued our interest, so after returning home and showering, Jason and I decided to look it up and on a whim we changed our plans and went there for dinner instead of doing whatever else we had originally put on our itinerary!
With high food and drink prices as they were in Iceland, we did our best to make it to happy hour at Bryggjan Brugghús. To our surprise, their IPA's were super legit - comparable to our West Coast style IPA's. We were happy campers. I ordered some fish and chips, and Jason ordered a burger. Beers and some pub food, this was our jam.
After 2 good meals and a cold swim, we were pooped! Our next day, though, would be our last day in Reykjavík, and we would be out and on our way to the Reykjanes Peninsula for some sightseeing before checking into our last and final stop — The Blue Lagoon!
Day 13 // Hallgrimskirkja, The Reykjanes Peninsula, and Arrival at The Blue Lagoon
It was our last morning in Reykjavík and we were so ready to leave - why??! Because after a short afternoon of sightseeing, we were finally on our way to truly - and I mean truly - relax. Our final destination was The Blue Lagoon, and we were checking in for 2 nights. So, we packed our bags, and headed out for another breakfast at Sandholt Bakery (because we loved it so much) before walking around to see the city's most popular church.
Hallgrimskirkja is the largest church in all of Iceland, and can easily be seen from almost anywhere in Reykjavík (even the first hotel we stayed at!). With the sun shining bright and bellies full of food, we eagerly snapped as many pictures as we could of the building before briskly making our way out of the city for the last time.
It's easy to see how much the Icelandic landscape influences the architecture here - the columns of the church definitely bear a resemblance to the black basalt columns found throughout the country. Jason really loved the Leif Erikson statue in front of the church - his Elementary school mascot haha.
You could enter the church for a fee, but we didn't feel it was necessary. While there, I never noticed the constellations etched in the church windows... but when editing, the constellations stood out like a sore thumb and they were such a pleasant surprise.
The Reykjanes Peninsula
Home to the Keflavík airport, and the Blue Lagoon, the Reykjanes Peninsula is home to an enormous amount of varying landscape. We barely scraped the top of the list of geosites in this region, but unfortunately a lot of the beauty in the area is inaccessible by foot/car and could only be truly appreciated by sea or sky. We did put a few things on our sightseeing list, however, and we got a good glimpse of what the peninsula had to offer, and if you're in the area visiting the Blue Lagoon anyway, I recommend stopping by to take a look if you've already been to all the other Ring Road tourist attractions!
- Kleifarvatn (lake featured in Black Mirror "Crocodile" episode)
- Seltún (geothermal pools)
- Brimketill Lava Rocks
- Gunnuhver (huge geothermal pool)
Any Black Mirror fans out there?! If you recall the episode Crocodile (or just google it if you don't), you might remember this lake being in the opening scenes. The entire episode was actually filmed in Iceland back when they had record snowfall - and now that I look back at the episode, all of the scenes feel so familiar having now driven through the country. So eerie.
Anyway, the winds were CRAZY when we arrived at this lake, properly called Kleifarvatn. It was so strong that I could lean back (with my FULL body weight) against the wind and it could hold me up without falling. There was only 1 other car in the vicinity - they pulled over at the lake also, but after we pulled up, they left. Maybe they had a body to dump too and didn't enjoy our company...
More geothermal pools! But these probably looked the coolest thanks to the mineral deposits that also added a pop of color. There were wooden stairs here at Seltún that brought us up and around the hillside and the bubbles were subdued and the stinky fog made for uber moody photos. It was very cold though, and while we might've been here for a while, I do recall my hands actually getting pretty numb by the time we left.
Brimketill Lava Rocks
We were inching our way... closer and closer to the Blue Lagoon.
But first, off to the coast for a closer look at tumultuous waves and a natural pool made of lava rock.
There's a large outlook at the edge of the cliff, and when you look over the railing, you can see Brimketill, which sits just at the base, at the edge of the ocean. If you're patient enough, you can watch the waves come in and out, and one will eventually be large enough to fill the pool and you'll see it overflow. The rest of the coastline is made of lava rock, carved by the constant ebb and flow of ocean water.
Lastly, a huge geothermal spring, visible from very far away that basically looked like a huge hole in the ground spewing tons of hot steam into the air. Was it safe to be standing there? Was it going to blow? Who knew. But there had to be the reason why there were so many power plants nearby (why do you think the water in the Blue Lagoon was so blue - FYI, it's power plant run off) so they must be harvesting all of this naturally pent up energy for good reason.
Anyway, Gunnuhver looked to be a very active and powerful geothermal spring - one we couldn't even get close enough to really see. All we saw was a huge pile of steam!
The Silica Hotel @ The Blue Lagoon
The end was near. But it was only the beginning of the end, and it had finally come time for us to
R E L A X
Quick 411 - We were spending 2 nights at the Silica Hotel, which is The Blue Lagoon's own private hotel. With our room reservation comes unlimited access to our hotel's own private lagoon, which was well worth the cost of the room itself. Our room also comes with its own robe and pair of slippers, and in addition, we each get premium access to the actual Blue Lagoon resort with no advance reservation required - we could choose whichever time slot we wanted, whether or not it was "sold out" to the public. Each premium admission then includes a complimentary alcoholic beverage at the Blue Lagoon resort, its own separate robe, and another pair of slippers that you get to keep... so we both packed home 2 pairs of Blue Lagoon branded slippers in our luggage, but the robes were to be returned upon departure. With the room came a complimentary daily breakfast buffet - and boy was the spread decadent.
After dropping off our things, we took a look at the moss-covered lava fields that surrounded our rooms. There's a private walkway that takes us from our room straight to the Blue Lagoon, past the moss and rocks, and we flew the drone around briefly, but decided we shouldn't waste a minute more and changed into our swimsuits to get a quick swim in.
Before entering any of the lagoons, guests are to shower (with soap and water) and the most wonderful thing about the private lagoon at the Silica Hotel is that you basically get the entire shower and locker room to yourself. There was maybe one other occasion over the handful of times we went back to swim where I wasn't the only person in the entire place... and even if there is another person in there, you literally have more than 30 feet of space between the two of you and it's not like you're in a cramped public bathroom together. Imagine being in a huge high school locker room again. Also, there is an abundance of shower stalls, towels, cotton swabs, lotion, shower gel, conditioner, pool floaties, hair dryers (if you need them) and lockers available at your dispense should you choose to hang around in the locker rooms to use them. We just walked back to our hotel room in our robes, of course, and just showered again properly. But if you hate crowds like we do and enjoy the luxury of peace and quiet when relaxing in the lagoon at whatever time of day you wish (just a few feet away from your hotel room), I definitely recommend staying in the Silica Hotel and perhaps even forgoing the Blue Lagoon itself!
I have to be honest, during the span of our 2 night, 2 day stay, I HAVE NEVER SHOWERED SO MANY TIMES IN MY LIFE! Shower before getting in the lagoon, shower after getting out, then shower again after returning to the room because I couldn't really properly shower all the mineral deposit gunk off of me in the public shower... and because we went BACK to do a night swim after the sun went down on our first night ... repeat!
Then the next morning, we were headed to big kahuna... The Blue Lagoon resort itself so more showers were to be had.
We tried to stay up, monitoring the aurora forecast, but the forecast shifted unfavorably late in the evening so we were out of luck. The stars were out in full force, however, so while the skies were clear for our last 2 nights in Iceland, the auroras just didn't want to be seen.
Day 14 // My Birthday + The Blue Lagoon
On the morning of my 29th birthday, I sipped sparkling wine and watched the sun rise in the midst of the earling morning fog while basking in the warm thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon beside my beloved consort.
I may have been 8 hours ahead of the states, but I officially turned 29 on our 14th day abroad. I'm noticing a trend here, and I'm always finding myself away from home on my birthdays... maybe I'm trying to avoid it, maybe I'm trying to run away from it, or maybe I'm finding more authentic and intentional ways of spending my time, as each passing year reminds me how many years I'm wasting away... 😟
Anyway, below is that private walkway from our hotel to the resort. That bright light in the sky... that's the moon! We requested the second earliest session we could from our concierge (we wanted to enjoy our hotel's amazing free breakfast buffet first - the best free breakfast buffet we had in all of Iceland) so we could also catch the sunrise and beat the crowds. As you can see, the sun wasn't up yet, and by the time we got through the locker room and explored the different parts of the pool and got our drinks, we were just in time for the slow sunrise (because the sun likes to take its time doing things in Iceland so dont worry - you don't have to rush!).
The temperatures were in the negatives (celsius) for the highs so the water on our lashes and eyebrows were actually freezing! You can almost see it on Jason's lashes in the picture above. We don't have many other photos because we only brought the GoPro with us to the water. All of our other footage was video since we didn't care to bring our phones with us - the minerals would have been a huge mess to clean off the ports!
SIDEBAR FOR THE LADIES:
And speaking of minerals, the girls are always freaking out about their hair drying out, and while my hair is definitely bleached and color treated, I found that as long as I conditioned my hair properly before and after getting into the lagoon, every time I showered, it was fine. I deep conditioned when I finally got home to San Diego, but it wasn't like "straw" as they described it to me. It wasn't a frizz ball and I didn't look crazy. But I do have very fine hair to begin with, so to each their own.
I'd also heard the lagoon messes up your manicure, and while it was sort of true, it wasn't because the lagoon had crazy reactions or whatever, it was more because you were soaking in the water for a long time. The edges of my gel mani did begin to lift, but as long as I left it alone and didn't pick at it, it would dry and harden up fine. My pedicure, however, got kind of scratched up, due to the rough texture of the lagoon floor... but that's just because the bottom is filled with either bumpy lava rocks or soft silica sand and you'll never know when you're about to step in either. Luckily, this was the end of our 2 week trip so my manicure/pedicure was near the end of its life expectancy anyway!
Our premium admission granted us free access to the algae mud masks at the mask bar - where only the silica mud masks are free otherwise. The silica was pretty drying already and since my runny nose was drying the heck out of the skin from wiping with tissues all day, the algae felt amazing on my dry patches. Afterwards, it sucked to have to wash the mask off with lagoon water though. We used the waterfall feature in the pool to do so, but it was pretty powerful and the lagoon water itself is filled with minerals so I didn't really feel "clean" washing my face in it. Meh.
We decided to head back to the hotel after about 2 hours at the Blue Lagoon resort because the resort started getting super crowded and increasingly loud and obnoxious.
We showered up, had a lazy day in the room, watched TV, watched the sun go by our window over the moss, and swam in our own private lagoon as we watched the sunset. After the sun went down, we had our own makeshift picnic with an assortment of Icelandic cheeses and a parma sandwich... and that was the end of my first day being 29.
Day 15 // Departure + Farewell Iceland
We'd finally reached the end, and while I'm sad to say our vacation had ended, I have to admit, I was relieved to finally be headed home. There really is no place like home, and while we loved our time off and we loved exploring all of these beautiful places and having the ability to relax and enjoy each other's company, we were so grateful to have a place to come home to together. ☻
I have to say, the check-in process at the Keflavík Airport was unbelievably easy and efficient. I honestly wish our airports were that self-proficient - I really think it'd save us a lot of time. The boarding process, however, made us all feel like hot cattle since there was no waiting area at the gate, and everyone was standing around in the middle of the hallway unsure of what was going on since they also aren't fond of making announcements like we're used to.
Other than that, the airport's also really great at exposing you to their duty-free shops... and don't forget to take advantage of their water fountains because if there's something I'll miss, it's being able to drink ice cold Icelandic water straight from the tap!
Our flight from Iceland actually dropped us off in Seattle where we stayed for the night and caught a morning flight back to San Diego the next morning (we had issues with our initial booking and the connecting flight to San Diego that was originally scheduled for that same night got canceled). This worked out to our advantage, however, because we were so sick and tired of flying.
My congestion was KILLING me and the departures/landing of each flight felt like pencils stabbing me in the ear drums. The pain and pressure was excruciating, we were starving, and we honestly just wanted to sleep in a proper bed and take a proper shower. We had Pizza Hut delivered to our hotel room and KTFO. I needed rest, and couldn't imagine sitting on another 3.5 hour flight to San Diego anyway.
The next morning, we headed home to sunny San Diego where we made it home safely, started our loads of laundry, and sat on our beautiful couch and just appreciated being home. And that's it! We were both officially sick with a colds, cough, sniffling, stuffed and completely plugged up and tired, but we still finished unpacking and doing all of our laundry... all before Monday came around. That's teamwork. ♥︎
So, what's next?
Travel tips and tricks. Info about all my essential gear. Booking and itinerary suggestions. Stay tuned & thanks so much for following along ✌︎