We landed in Iceland about 9am and took a bus into Reykjavik, about an hour from the airport. Once we got into Reykjavik we went to drop our bags off at our Airbnb even though we couldn't actually check in until later. We started to walk around to get some food and figure out our plan for Iceland. We knew we wanted to see one of the waterfalls. I also really wanted to go to Blue Lagoon, a famous geothermal pool outside the city but it was about $60 for the bus there and entrance so we decided not to go. We went to the tourist info center to get a city map and ask about getting to the waterfall Gullfoss on public transportation. We learned that the only way to get there is to rent a car or do a tour. We didn't have time for a tour since most of them left by 9 or 10 am and lasted until 5 or 6pm. They hit the major attractions but it was already 11am so we had missed most of the day's tours. We had to be at the airport by 2:30pm the next day so wouldn't have time for one then either.
We decided to rent a car. Reykjavik is a small city so we figured it wouldn't be too stressful driving around.
The rental car company was set to pick us up back at the info center in a hour so we went to find some lunch. We went to a small restaurant down the street and got amazing pulled pork sandwiches! We planned our day and mapped out all our directions at lunch. We decided to do our own tour of "the golden circle" that all the tour companies offered. This included Thingvellir National Park (where you can stand on two tectonic plates at once), Geysir, and Gullfoss waterfall (the largest waterfall in Europe).
After eating we stopped back at our Airbnb to get the GoPro and camera. We were able to check in by then so got settled a little and left to meet the car rental company. They picked us up and took us to their office where we got a little red Hyundai for about 90 bucks for 24 hours.
Thingvellir National Park was the first stop about 30 minutes outside of town. The drive there was beautiful - very green and lots of purple wild flowers. There were also snow-covered mountains in the background and tons of sheep and horses everywhere. Horseback rides are a big part of tourism for Reykjavik. All the horses were beautiful and obviously very well taken care of!
The park itself is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. We learned that these tectonic plates are separating by 2cm each year!
The next stop was Geysir. On the way there we stopped and got coffee at a small cafe that was actually connected to a hot springs. I wished we'd had our swimsuits with us!
We finally made it to the geyser, called Geysir. We spent about an hour here walking around and watching. Some of the water was up to 80 -100 degrees Celsius! That’s 176 - 212 degrees Fahrenheit!
Last stop, Gullfoss waterfall. The 105 foot tall waterfall is considered the largest waterfall in Europe in terms of volume of water. First we went up to a platform that looked out on the waterfall. It was so windy that I could literally lean forward into the wind and it held me up!
Next we went down some stairs to a path very close to the waterfall. I had to tuck my scarf and camera into my rain jacket because they were both getting soaked because of how much water was coming up and into the wind!
After less than ten minutes of being at the waterfall my hands were nearly completely numb!
We decided to warm up in the little cafe before heading back. We stopped a few times along the way back to get some pictures of the scenery from the car. We passed by Thingvellir National Park again as well as Thingvellir lake, the largest natural lake in Iceland.
After an hour and a half drive back into Reykjavik, we got back to our Airbnb and charged up our almost dead phones. By the time we were ready to go eat dinner it was almost 10pm. It was still so bright out that it only felt like 7pm or so! We had a hard time finding anywhere with the kitchen open. Finally, we just settled on some chips and salsa at a taco bar because nowhere else was still serving food! When we finished there it was about 11:15pm. The sun was just starting its descent! We walked the few blocks back to our Airbnb and got the car to go find a good spot to watch the sunset.
We made our way to a statue of a Viking ship called Solfar "the sun voyager" on the edge of the water. We sat there for over an hour and watched the sun "go down".
When we finally made our way back to our Airbnb around 1am it was still light! It was weird going to bed with so much light still. The sunrise was set for about 2:30 or 3am! Almost 24 hours of daylight.
We slept in until 10 then showered and packed our bags, for the last time!!! We checked out of our Airbnb and drove up the big church and bell tower in town. We got some coffee and croissants then went to climb the bell tower. The top of the bell tower is supposed to provide great views of the city and all the colorful rooftops! Unfortunately there was a concert happening the church when we got there and the tower was closed for the next 40 minutes. We had to return our rental car before then so just took some pictures of the outside and the Leif Ericsson monument next to it.
We did one more lap around the city before dropping off the rental car. The rental company gave us a ride to the bus station and we hopped on the bus to Keflavik airport. Luckily when we checked in for our flight yesterday we were able to move to an exit row. Which will be really nice for the 7.5-hour flight!
See you soon Denver!!