Here’s the second part of our blog on Iceland. See here for Part 1.
In addition to spending time in Reykjavik, we also rented a car and checked out the areas surrounding Reykjavik. Driving there was manageable other than their fondness for traffic circles, even on highways.
Our first stop was Thingvellir, the site of the Icelandic Althing, which was the first parliamentary government. Those who geek out of history (ahem, the three of us) will enjoy reading all about Iceland’s transfer from Norway, to Denmark, to eventually becoming a fully independent nation during WWII while Denmark was under German occupation.
For those more interested in geology, the area of Thingvellir also puts you between the North American and European tectonic plates. There’s lots of geologic activity there with great waterfalls and fun landscapes.
There wasn’t much to actually see at Althing, but it’s a great excuse to get out of the city and check out some of the amazing landscape.
Another highlight of our trip was riding Icelandic Horses (not ponies, as I was corrected by our riding instructors). They were so cute and little! We did a three hour ride through the lava fields. Even at a solid trot it was manageable, and the horses were very friendly. In our pre-riding instruction, it was even recommended that you sing to your horse to make friends. How “My Little Pony” is that?
Our last big highlight was the Blue Lagoon. We were torn before getting there. We’d read that it was too touristy and not worth it. Nope. It’s amazing. It really is very blue, with a soft sandy floor. It’s the biggest and best jacuzzi you could imagine, plus a swim up bar that serves blue drinks! A great place to spend a few hours relaxing and people watching.
If you’re considering a trip to Iceland, go for it! It was only a 5 hour flight from the East coast. You can do an easy weekend trip and only miss one day of work. Unless you want to get into some sort of adventure sports or drive the whole country, a weekend is enough time. Of course, the easiest option would be to email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask her to help you set up a trip (she helped with my trip and it was great), but here’s some additional details. We stayed at: Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Nordica – perfectly adequate; very European; amazingly friendly front desk staff; was booked as part of our package with Icelandair; if you book something on your own, you’ll probably want to get something in the center of town. Horseback riding: Ishestar – nice and helpful riding instructors, cute horses, reasonable prices. Flights: we took a package through Iceland air; if you’re interested, start watching for deals (or let us know!); the best opportunities seem to be out of Boston and Dulles (DC) and you usually have to book within about 72 hours or sooner of a sale being published to get the best deals. (Note they made you check all bags over 6 kilos) Other tours: we tried to book a Northern Lights viewing tour through Iceland Travel. It was too cloudy on our first night and they forgot to pick us up the second night. Perhaps we were just unlucky, but I’d try another company.