Iceland Part II: Geysir, Seljavallalaug, and the Northern Lights

After exploring some of the south coast of Iceland, Jeremy and I wanted to go north from our cabin to see a geyser and another waterfall we heard about. The lady we were renting the house from also gave us directions to the oldest swimming pool in Iceland, and we were determined to go, even though it was in the opposite direction.

Driving in Iceland was really fun for me, mainly because our 4×4 was awesome, there weren’t many people on the roads, and the scenery changed dramatically with each turn we made. What we didn’t realize about driving in Iceland was the price of diesel. Every time we passed a gas station and saw the prices we thought, no that can’t be right, we must not be understanding it. When we finally had to fill up, we ended up getting a half a tank for over $100. It was painful.



The Great Geysir

After recovering from filling up the tank, we made our way to the Great Geysir (Jeremy and I called it the OG, “original geyser,” since it’s where geyser got the name), where there was a beautiful restaurant and shop. Even though we didn’t eat anything due to the high prices, all the food looked and smelled delicious.






At least they have a sense of humor about their financial collapse.


Strangest souvenir we’ve seen.


The gift shop at Geysir.


Traveling on a strict budget = eating a cucumber in the car.

We didn’t realize that it was going to cost money to get into the area to see Geysir, so we stayed near the road and waited for what we thought was going to be a smaller geyser… We really thought we tricked the system and were going to see something cool, but after 30 minutes of standing there watching the ground smoke and water bubble, we finally asked someone if it was going to off. He told us that it wasn’t a geyser and nothing more was going to happen. We ducked our heads in embarrassment and ran back to the car. We ended up seeing the actual Geysir go off as we were driving by (but sadly didn’t get a picture), so it all worked out.

Waiting on a nonexistent geyser.

Waiting on a nonexistent geyser.

It was still a pretty view while we waited.

It was still a pretty view while we waited.


The drive to Gullfoss from Geysir only took about 10 minutes, and we didn’t know what to expect since we hadn’t seen pictures beforehand. Gullfoss (“golden waterfall”) is Iceland’s most famous, and we could see why. Along with everything else we saw in the land of fire and ice, it was difficult to believe that what our eyes were seeing was real.


Another rainbow/waterfall combination at Gulfoss.





Weather in Iceland is very unpredictable and changes quickly, just like the scenery. We got lucky and had pretty much clear skies the entire time we were there, but the day before we arrived was extremely stormy, we heard. As we were driving back from the Golden Circle, where Gulfoss and Geysir were located, we saw dark clouds and rainstorms near the coast, which is where we were heading to get in the geothermal pool. Jeremy and I went back and forth on deciding if we should make the drive to the location (it was an hour out of the way), but ultimately decided to risk it. For me, this was the best decision of the trip. I’m not a huge risk-taker in life (except when it comes to dropping everything and buying a one-way ticket to Europe, apparently), and normally I would play it safe. We didn’t know exactly where the pool was, we knew it required about 20 minutes of hiking, and we had no idea what to expect when we got there, or if we would even find it. The weather cooperated and stayed beautiful, we found the parking area, and headed out on foot with our bathing suits.

The hike did require a lot of jumping on rocks and climbing up hills, but it was easier to find than we were expecting. When we finally arrived, I was so, so happy that we decided to make the journey. There were a few other people there, and there was a structure where you could change (which apparently was just a sheep shed). The experience in the pool is one of the best things I’ve ever done, for sure.

When we first got in, it wasn’t quite as warm as we thought it would be, but enjoyed it anyway. One of the other people in the pool came over and introduced himself and let us know that the reason everyone was in the opposite corner of the pool was because that’s where the pipe that the hot water was coming out of was located. We joined the others, and were relieved to feel the VERY hot water pouring in. The people we met were so nice, and all traveling. Only one guy was from Iceland, and he was hitchhiking around the country because he had a few days off from work. It was so fun to be around other travelers and to talk about what we were doing and where we were going, and to hear their stories. They even shared their vodka with us.

Making the journey to the swimming pool, not knowing where we were going or what to expect.

Making the journey to the swimming pool, not knowing where we were going or what to expect.

The magical pool.

The magical pool.

The sheep shed where we got changed into our bathing suits.

The sheep shed where we got changed into our bathing suits.

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The view from inside. I never wanted to leave.

The Northern Lights

Jeremy and I reluctantly got out of the warm geothermal pool and trekked back to the car to make the drive back to our house. We went the same road as we went the first day, when we saw all the horses. Luckily they were still there, and we got out to take more pictures of them.










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When we got home, we made our dinner of a pizza we picked up at the grocery store (turns out we didn’t have an oven so we put it on a pan on the stove and it worked out really well surprisingly), some Icelandic beer for Jeremy, and some red wine for me. Some of the vegetables at the grocery store were really reasonably-priced, but then all of a sudden there would be four tomatoes for $25, or three peppers for $20. Since everything was listed in Icelandic Krona, we were really careful about what we were getting, and probably spent an hour just figuring everything out. We made some great choices though, and only spent about $40 on food for the entire time we were there, not including the alcohol we picked up at the duty-free shop at the airport (which was recommended to us).



I could live here.

I figured our day couldn’t possibly get any better, but as we were going to bed, Jeremy looked out the window above our bed and noticed the Northern Lights had appeared. I was giving up hope that we would see them, but as soon as he said that, I jumped up, went down the ladder, threw as many layers on as I could, and grabbed my camera and tripod. We ended up staying outside for almost an hour, after discovering how fast the lights were changing. We were SO cold, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to go back inside because every few minutes there was a new scene. It was kind of difficult to figure out how to photograph them since I’m still learning about my camera, but I was able to get a few good ones with some long exposures.

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It was very hard to say goodbye to our little perfect cabin, but alas, it was time to return to civilization. As a side note, Icelandic folklore is so incredibly interesting, and we found a tiny elf house outside our cottage, which is very common in the country. People put these little houses outside for elves to live in, and Jeremy and I read that sometimes you even see tiny churches meant to convert the elves to Christianity. We saw many elf houses on our travels, and loved every one of them.

The tiny elf house we found outside the cabin.

The tiny elf house we found outside the cabin.

We decided to head to Reykjavik before getting to our Airbnb in Keflavik near the airport, since we hadn’t spent any time there yet. The city was really nice, clean, and beautiful. We walked around a bit on the main shopping street, and started our quest to find the famous hot dog stand we’d read so much about. We finally found it after asking three different people for directions (Icelanders give interesting directions, we discovered: “take a right and then go a bit, and then take a left and then another right,” with no street names or any more details). The hot dog was made of lamb and had crispy onions and honey mustard on it, along with other spreads we couldn’t identify. It was delicious.


Who knew Iceland would be known for its hot dogs?


Waiting in line at the hot dog stand.

Reykjavik has a lot of Norwegian design stores, and beautiful street art.








We stayed at a tiny, tiny cottage in the back of someone’s house near the airport, and had to be up at 4am the next morning to return our car and catch our flight to London. We were so sad to leave Iceland, and hope to go back to that magical place someday in the future.


*Another side note: It’s probably obvious, but I’m not running the Cork Marathon on June 2 anymore… With my knee issues derailing my training early on and not being able to run as much as I was expecting the past month, AND the fact that my parents told me they can’t make it to Ireland that week anymore, I’ve decided not to do it. I downgraded to the half just in case, but it is looking like Jeremy and I will be in Honfleur, France with my parents that week, and getting to Ireland is too difficult. I can’t wait until I run a full marathon, and I know that there will be a better time in the future where I can “respect the distance” instead of rushing it.


Iceland Part I: Waterfalls and a Glacier


Jeremy and I are in Kent, about an hour southeast of London, housesitting for a family with three dogs, four cats, five chickens and two ducks (more on that later). I hope to catch up on everything we’ve been doing lately, and I am excited to finally share our pictures from Iceland.

In short, Iceland was the most magical place we have ever been. We knew it was going to be beautiful, but we were blown away. What added to the experience was the cabin we rented on Homeaway; we could not have chosen a better spot. Coming from NYC, we were looking forward to having an entirely opposite experience, and we got that and more. AND we saw the Northern Lights on our third night there. I bought a tripod specifically for that reason, and luckily it was worth lugging it around for (and now I’m going to send it home I think).

We flew out of JFK in New York and the flight to Keflavik Airport in Iceland was only about four fours and forty-five minutes (about the same distance from NYC to LA, who knew). We touched down around 7am (2am New York time), and it was a pretty surreal day going forward since we hadn’t slept at all.

Our first impressions of Iceland were at the airport, specifically, the bathrooms. Each spotless bathroom had its own private room, with a sensor-operated sink that was a hand-dryer as well. They were very impressive. The airport was also really nice in general, especially considering it was pretty small. We were starving since we didn’t have dinner, so I got an egg sandwich and Jeremy got a smoked lamb sandwich, and we ate in the airport cafeteria among all the other travelers, 90% of them drinking alcohol even though it was so early in the morning.


Early morning in the Keflavik Airport.


Jeremy and his smoked lamb sandwich.

It’s pretty imperative to rent a car in Iceland, unless you want to take a bus from Keflavik to the capital, Reykjavik, and then take tour buses from there, but renting a car is far more convenient (especially when you’re going to a cabin in the middle of nowhere like we were, obviously). I got a really good deal on a rental car, even though we were getting worried because all the cheaper rentals were manual, and we can only drive automatic (we realized that should really change soon). The company also upgraded us to a nice 4×4, which we were really happy about after seeing the state of the roads we had to drive on to get to our cabin. The car also came with a free GPS system, but it didn’t work so we relied on maps instead.

Exhausted and deliriously happy!

Exhausted and deliriously happy!

The drive to the cabin was supposed to be a few hours, and seeing that it was only 7am when we landed and we couldn’t check in until 4pm, we were kind of at a loss of what to do. If we stopped the car at all, we would just fall asleep, so we kept driving and seeing where we could pass some time.



We finally got to a town called Selfoss, about 35 minutes away from the cabin, and decided to find some internet to buy to email the house owner and ask if we could check in early. Luckily she emailed back pretty soon and said yes, and we were so happy. It was the best 200 Icelandic Krona we spent! While we were on one of the backroads almost to the house, a group of Icelandic ponies were in the road… aka a dream come true for me. They surrounded our car and I got out to take some pictures.


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When we finally reached our little cabin, we only managed to stay awake for about an hour before passing out at 3pm. We woke up around 9pm, made dinner, then went back to sleep at midnight until the next morning, and we weren’t jetlagged at all after that. It was pretty great.

Our first picture together in Iceland, in front of our little home.

Our first picture together in Iceland, in front of our little home.

When we got up the next day, we were pleasantly surprised to see a dusting of snow on the ground and a shining sun, which made for some nice pictures. I got my tripod out again and took some of the house and a few more of us.




The next morning, we embarked on a day-long adventure from the cabin along the Ring Road, stopping at two waterfalls and a glacier before heading to the ocean to see the dramatic coastline. Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss, and it was a huge waterfall that you could walk behind. It was pretty icy so we almost slipped a few dozen times, but it was really neat and there were lots of areas to explore.









One of the many crazy tour buses we saw in Iceland.


Seljalandsfoss in the background.


Our next stop was the waterfall Skógarfoss, where we happened to see a perfect rainbow in front of it. We climbed many stairs to get to the top of the waterfall, where you could then climb over a little fence and explore the miles and miles of trails through the hills. There were no other people on the trails and even though we didn’t walk too far, I couldn’t help but think about running around there and how great it would be.









Jeremy and I were on a strict budget in Iceland, so we didn’t spend any money on tours or anything, but if we ever go back I think it would be fun to go on a glacier walk with a tour guide. We wanted to make sure we actually saw a glacier, so we drove a bit out of the way on rocky roads to look at the base of one.


Jeremy conquering the glacier.


Sitting on a boulder with the glacier in the background.


After the glacier, we drove toward Vik since we heard there were really beautiful cliffs, black beaches, and rock formations on the coast. The drive was beautiful, and this turned out to be Jeremy’s favorite part of the day (and maybe the whole trip).














DSC_2728And of course, on the way home I had to stop and take a picture of some horses.


Hopefully I’ll have part two of our Iceland adventure tomorrow!