We left DC at 8:30 pm and arrived in Iceland 6 hours later (6:30 am local time). We had reserved a rental car at the airport so we groggily made our way to the rental car counters. But there was no counter for Thrifty rental car. Just a bored looking teenager holding a (barely visible) sign with our name on it. Not sure what to expect, we followed this young chap to the shuttle and off we went to a building next to the airport with a Thrifty/Dollar car rental sign above the door. This looked perfect. We signed the forms, declined car insurance (more on this later), and set off in a brand new Mazda 2 (100 km on the odometer!).
We made our way towards Reykjavik where we planned to spend the morning, going to a cafe, seeing the sights, and exploring. So we parked our car near a cafe and decided to go from there. But we had forgotten that it was Sunday morning and everything was closed. We finally found a cafe that was open on Laugavegur (we later found out that Laugavegur is one of the oldest shopping streets in Iceland), had some coffee, an Icelandic donut (kleinur), and grilled ham and cheese croissant.
Shortly after eating, we met a new puffin friend called Leif near Hallgrimskirkja and his friend Leifer Eriksson.
We walked around Hallgrimskirkja, walked through a sculpture garden with very, um, interesting sculptures, looked at the Viking boat sculpture, and headed to the harbor in preparation for our puffin cruise.
The puffin cruise was cold and wet and fantastic! The boat took us out to puffin island (Lundey) and we saw so many puffins!
While on the way back from puffin island, we saw a Viking ship docked in the harbor and we were told that it was making its way from Norway to the USA. So naturally we had to go check it out. We ran (yes, we sprinted in excitement) to where the boat was docked only to discover that we were just in time to walk around the Draken Harald Hårfagre and chat with the Vikings.
After chatting with the Vikings, we parted ways and began our journey on the Golden Circle. The first stop was Þingvellir, which was the location of the first outdoor parliament in Iceland around 930 AD where Iceland was founded as a country. This is also where there is a rift between the American and European continental shelves.
From there, we headed towards towards Geysir. It was a long drive (probably at least an hour) so naturally I fell asleep in the car. When I woke up, I immediately saw a sign for ice cream and we had to stop. The place was a fun little farm that made ice cream on site. We each got a giant ice cream cone and ate our ice cream with the cows. We are just living the dream.
It was getting late and we still had so much to do. So we continued on to Geysir. We got to see the geysir erupt several times. While everyone else was poised waiting for the perfect photo, we were just enjoying the area. Someone standing next to us asked us if we didn’t have a camera since we weren’t taking photos. We explained that we were just watching, so they said that they would send us their video of the geysir. Best of both worlds!
Our third stop on the golden circle was Gullfoss, which was absolutely beautiful. It is one of the most magical places. It is three levels of waterfalls the last of which seems to disappear into the earth. These pictures pretty much sum it up.
The day was coming to an end so we started to make our way to Garður where we were staying. We were already several hours late, but we passed by Kerið, a 6500 year old crater, and had to stop. We ran up, took some photos, and had to be on our way.
We got to our bed and breakfast at 9pm said hello to our host, and asked if there was anywhere we could get dinner. Our host Disa recommended Duus in Keflavik. We got there and decided to try some of the local fare. We ordered shark and whale (I’m sorry, grandma). When the waitress brought us our food, she wished us luck (never a good sign). The shark came in a little cup with two shots of unknown liquid. Apparently we were supposed to eat the shark and chase it with the shot (Gary had to ask because we didn’t know what to do). It was…an experience. We finally got back to the B&B and crashed.
We got up bright and early the next morning at 4 am so we could catch our flight to Munich. We ate a quick breakfast of things Gary found in the refrigerator and decided should go on toast (butter, cheese, salami, and cucumbers with a side of red peppers). We filled up the car with very expensive gas and went to return the car. We were loading our bags into the shuttle when the rental car person came over to us looking very concerned. There were two scratches in the side of the car and we were told that they were going to have to put a hold on my credit card (remember earlier when I said we declined car insurance through the the rental car company?) I was almost in tears, and level headed Gary went over to the car to investigate further. With a little bit of spit and tears and elbow grease, we found out that it wasn’t actually a scratch, just a smudge. We were released from the rental car holding area and made our way to the airport!
Thank you Iceland for the spectacular adventure! See you again soon!