“Can you see the road?” I asked my boyfriend, Shane, as we inched along Highway 1 in a white out snow storm.
“No, but it’s fine,” was the reply.
I blinked. I didn’t think I had heard him correctly. Then, within two minutes of me questioning him, poof! The storm was passed and all ahead of us lay blue sky dotted with wispy clouds, a road with fresh tire tracks from the cars that we couldn’t see were ahead of us, and several inches of fresh powder.
By day four of our trip, you would think we would have gotten used to the fact that a dramatic change of weather was a common occurrence while driving through the northeastern part of Iceland. Even if we weren’t, we hoped at least our rented 4×4 Suzuki (that we had completely made ourselves home in) was used to it.
We wanted to go on a road trip. We wanted to go to Iceland. We decided to take a road trip through Iceland.
We began our trip with a crazy early flight into Keflavik International Airport, the main airport of the country, before picking up our rental car and heading to the famous Blue Lagoon.
These aren’t posed photos, we just took these of each other while the other slept at the airport waiting to pick up our rental.
I was worried, when pre-booking our ticket to the Blue Lagoon (note: you MUST pre-book, and I would recommend several days in advance especially for weekend visits) that this was too “touristy” of a stop for me to make. I like traveling like a local and it’s pretty apparent that locals don’t frequent the Blue Lagoon (mostly from all of the American and European accents heard while swimming).
But, what is also apparent: some places are popular for a reason.
From the moment we walked out of the spa-like interior to the lagoon, it was magic. Seeing the mist gathering from the geothermal heated waters and catching the light from the rising sun we knew that we had made the correct decision in coming here.
We booked our ticket for the first time slot of 8am upon arrival. Thanks to the short distance from the airport to the lagoon, and bus services (Reykjavik Excursions) that will take you from the airport, to the lagoon, and later from the lagoon to your lodging, there is really no reason not to go. For the price (we booked the cheapest ticket for $80) we received free towels, a silica face mask, and a free drink, alcoholic or not. We lounged around for about two and a half hours, warming up our ears (the only cold part of our body, since it was still 30°F outside), sipping our drinks, and popping in and out of the saunas.
While some travel itineraries would suggest visiting the Blue Lagoon before departing Iceland, I truly think it is the best welcome in to the country upon arrival. What a better way to unwind from a long flight than in the warm waters? Not to mention, you can stay as long as you’d like, rather than have to rush off to catch a plane. All in all, do not pass up the Blue Lagoon. It is worth the price you pay, I promise!
Since we had the full day ahead of us, we decided to breeze through Reykjavik before beginning our road trip. Now, when I say “breeze through” I really mean “gust through” because that is what the wind had in mind for us. No matter how warm it might be, you are no match for that Icelandic wind, I promise. Despite the 40°F “heat”, we still had on two layers of clothing and our large coats to battle the blustery day.
It didn’t stop us from eating at Bæjarins Beztu, the “best hot dog stand in Iceland*”! (*According to Bill Clinton apparently). As a Chicago girl, its a little funny to think of someplace other than home being known for hot dogs, but once again, I was corrected.
Behold: the Icelandic hot dog.
Doesn’t look like much, but let me tell you what this thing is packing. We’re talking a steamed bun, not one but two types of onions (raw and fried). Top that with a lamb hot dog smothered in a remoulade sauce (still not really sure what that is but it was great) and damn do you have yourself a dog.
We ate one every day.
After our little jaunt in Reykjavik for the day, we started our drive north west. For the next 5 days, we would be riding in our trusty Suzuki 4×4 (which I fondly named Suzi) around the entire country. Come whatever: wind, rain, snow, blizzard…all of which we got.
Our second stop before heading to our lodging for the evening was in the quaint little town of Borgarnes.
One thing I truly love about visiting little towns in popular countries, is that you get to see how “normal” people live. When you are removed from the epicenter of the tourism, this is how daily life goes on. School buses dropping kids off at home, a pick up soccer game despite the wind, and people picking up groceries on their way home for dinner.
We meandered for a while, taking in the town, stopping by the Settlement Center Museum, which is a great place to visit if you want to see what life was like during the turn of the century in Iceland! Also a great place to learn about the famous Icelandic Sagas, their own version of a Greek or Roman mythology. They have realistic displays and models “acting” out the Sagas as well as exhibits set up to look like a home in historic Iceland.
As we were walking, we came across this lovely, turf farmer’s cottage!
According to the Settlement Center, the cottage was part of the farmers land 100 years ago, and the museum is in the process of refurbishing it to put on exhibition soon. But until then, you are free to walk around and explore it! So we did just that.
After a bit of exploration, we hopped back in the car to start heading to our cabin for the night. Mind you, we had been up for close to 36 hours by now and were feeling every second of that. But first we wanted dinner.
This search for dinner was our first culture shock into Icelandic ways. How do you ask? Well, after driving thirty miles to get to the only restaurant within those thirty miles, we arrived only to learn that it was closed for winter. So then we have to drive another thirty miles…to learn that place was closed too.
Now, if we would have done our research, we would have known that the local gas stations also double as coffee shops, bars, grocery stores, and restaurants. Luckily we learned that the hard way after our search for dinner on this night. So we kept driving and getting hangrier…(hungry+angry).
Until! Just around the bend! Could that be? A restaurant? With cars in the parking lot?! It was! And in true Icelandic fashion, it was a multipurpose place as well: hotel, restaurant, store. But wow, was the food delicious!
With our bellies full and our bodies excited for the rest that they would get in less than an hour, we drove all the way back to the countryside right outside of Borgarnes to stay in this lovely cabin for the night. Tomorrow, we set out for the rugged northern part of the country headed east, but alas, that will have to be another blog post…stay tuned!
If you enjoyed this post, please “follow” La Americana to get updates right when I post!