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Chasing a Dream - Part I "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference" - Robert Frost

Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon

ICELAND | Saturday, 13 February 2016 | Views [451]

Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park

Day 3: Spa day! Tammy and Amy booked services at Hilton Nordica Spa and both enjoyed their services, though book the Salt Scrub with caution as it can be very intense (Tammy actually had a few spots on her back that started bleeding!). A nice bonus is the staff comes around and rubs your shoulders while you soak in the spa tub.

I opted for one of the local thermal pools: Laugardalslaug, the largest swimming facility in Reykjavik; worth the visit and easy to get to via the public bus (#14). The entrance fee is inexpensive at 900 ISK and includes free locker rental. Bring your own towel, or rent one there. The changing rooms are large and clean, and they have hairdryers available. What I liked best was the multiple hot tubs (called hot pots); each set at a different temperature, ranging from a mild 38 ℃ to a scalding 44 ℃, and also included a large saltwater tub. The facility also has a: sauna, steam room, olympic pool, cafe, and mini golf course.

Day 4: We booked a private tour with a small local operator called Geo Tours. It's a 1 man show run by Einar; who is super friendly and knowledgeable of the history and geology of Iceland. He operates two vehicles: a four seat Land Rover 4WD, and a six seat Lexus 4WD; because it’s a private tour, you pay for the vehicle and not per person, and he can customize your tour. We chose to explore the Golden Circle, which is a driving route that includes Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Strokkur geyser. We arrived at the National Park shortly after sunrise and the lighting was amazing, with the sun reflecting off the steaming water. My photography skills are amature, but it was hard to get a bad shot (the pictures speak for themselves). The Gullfoss falls were partially frozen which gave it a unique look from the one so often displayed in guide books. The path to the base of the falls was closed and the ground was quite icy, but there were still great views from the top. Tip: wear shoes with good traction if touring during winter as almost all the sites had frozen pathways and seeing people slip and fall was quite common. The Strokkur geyser, appears like a large bubble of water, before bursting open and spraying into the sky. It goes off every 4-8 mins, so if you miss the shot, you will have ample opportunity to take another. Tip: if you have a burst setting on your camera use it; as you can get a really cool shot of the bubble.

We enjoyed the day despite the frigid -16℃ weather, and would highly recommend both the Golden Circle and Geo Tours; also not having to ride around with 50 other tourist was totally worth the extra money we paid. He doesn’t have a website, so contact him directly at [email protected] or +354-893-9169 to get the best deals.

Day 5: Our final day in Iceland was spent soaking in the Blue Lagoon; the entrance fee is expensive but it is a unique experience and unlike other commercialized hot springs I’ve visited before, this one actually felt like you were in a natural setting, with all the comforts of a modern facility. We purchased the Premier package which included a robe, towel, slippers, and two free drinks. The robe alone made it worthwhile, so we didn’t freeze leaving the water for the other parts of the facility. It was very busy when we arrived at noon, but traffic seemed to die down in the late afternoon; most people visit while transferring to and from the airport, so it likely follows along the common flight schedules. The locker rooms were a zoo, but the lagoon itself is very large, and never felt crowded. We discovered the warmest part of the lagoon was by the swim-up bar (coincidence, I think not). Tip: the large boxes at the end of the wooden walkways are where the hot water is pumped out, so if you like it toasty, park yourself there. There is a hut that doles out spoonfuls of their Silica and Algae Mud Masks to use while you soak; go for it, it’s free, and is crazy expensive if you buy it in their boutique shop. We left with soft skin and feeling very relaxed. It’s easy to spend an entire day there, so give yourself plenty of time when planning your visit. A nice option, particularly if you have an early flight out, is to do like we did and visit the Blue Lagoon the day before departure and stay the night in Grindavik (only 6km from Blue Lagoon). This way you enjoy the lagoon without the stress of a time schedule, and you're much closer to the airport than departing directly from Reykjavik.

We enjoyed our time immensely in Iceland and feel there is still so much more to see and do (we regret not getting to do the ice caves); and all of us want to return again in the summer. If you're planning a trip to Europe, seriously consider a stopover in Iceland; Icelandair offers free stopovers if booked through them, alternately you can get good deals booking one way segments (Skyscanner is my favorite app for this). See my recommendations section for a few helpful guides and tips.

Tomorrow we part ways with Tammy; she will head home to Portland, and Amy and I will continue the fun in Paris and Brussels.


Tags: blue lagoon, golden circle

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