Woke up leisurely and showered to start the day. Came out and discovered it was actually snowing! My goodness! It wasn’t sticking because it wasn’t quite cold enough, but it was dropping big fluffy snowflakes everywhere in the city. We got dressed and went across to the street to a little market to buy sandwiches and snacks for our lunch for the day and some pastries for breakfast, then hopped in the car to start our day.
The plan for today was to drive the famous Golden Circle Tour which is basically a day trip out of Reykjavik to see some cool stuff. As we left the city and headed for the mountains the snow picked up and it got quite intense for a while. The weather here is just so crazy you can never truly be prepared. We carefully made our way to Thingvellir National Park for the first stop. This location was where the Viking clans decided to hold their first “parliament” in 930 AD. Up until that time every clan just looked after themselves, but after that point they had annual meetings to discuss more global laws and judgements. The neat part is that Iceland kept that location as their official parliament gathering from 930 all the way until about 1800. Also cool is that location is in the valley created by the rift of tectonic plates moving. That is the very spot that the Eurasian continent meets the North American continent. Lots of people come to go scuba diving in a deep fissure between the plates. It was fun to walk around there and see where the Vikings handled their government.
The next stop on the tour is Geysir. All geysers in the world are named after Geysir here in Iceland. The original Geysir no longer erupts anymore, but just next to him is a geyser named Strokkur that goes off very reliably every 10 minutes. So we went and watched that eruption several times. It was really cool.
The third stop on the tour is a large waterfall named Gullfoss. It’s a very impressive view, but not much else to discuss there. The wind was out of control when we got there so we didn’t stay as long as we may have otherwise. It was too hard to walk or see well with the intense wind.
For many people those three stops comprise the “Golden Circle” and they would head back to Reykjavik at that point. Eric and I decided to add a fourth stop onto the trip and go see a large crater named Kerid. That seemed like such a good idea because it’s slightly less popular than the big three attractions, and also who doesn’t love a good crater? This one is made from a volcano that erupted and then caved in on its own magma chamber. And there’s a ground water lake at the bottom that you can walk to. Sounded like a lovely stop when you’re on a full day driving tour. Except the weather was absolutely horrid. Pouring rain soaking everything, driving winds knocking you around, thick fog ruining the view… it was like standing in a monsoon while trying to casually take tourist photos. It was miserable. At least it wasn’t cold on top of all that, but it sure wasn’t fun. So instead of a nice walk around the lip of the crater or a nice stroll down to the lake, we snapped a few pictures and ran back to the car. Thank goodness we bought snacks in town before we left because it was definitely time for a feel better snack. Next stop was straight back to the apartment to try and dry ourselves out finally.
After a short rest and a change of clothes we walked up the street to Cafe Loki for dinner. It advertised traditional Icelandic food and was aimed squarely at tourists, but I didn’t care. It sounded delicious, and it was. Eric got a massive bowl of traditional lamb soup, and I got a big hearty bowl of plokkfiskur with dense dark rye bread on the side. Plokkfiskur is a traditional fish stew that’s sort of like a thick cream of potatoes and onions with chunks of haddock in it. And the bread was thick, dense, sweet with molasses, and tasted like it would keep you full forever. It was just what we needed after a cold windy Icelandic day.
We walked back to the apartment to digest and go through the days photos. Around 9pm we set out one more time in search of ice cream. We chose a shop called Eldur & ÍS that got good reviews and looked pretty cool. They had waffle cones dipped in chocolate with candies attached which was awesome, but even more awesome is that the menu listed them as “cones in fancy clothes”. I had chocolate chip coconut ice cream in a toblerone cone and Eric had daim ice cream in a smarties cone. For reference daim is the European heath bar and smarties in Europe are basically m&ms. We enjoyed our late night dessert and then came back to the apartment for the very last night in my 20s!