Still feeling so relaxed we were falling off our proverbial chairs, we layered up to the max and made our way to 101 Laugavegur to catch our ride. It was our last day and we were heading out to see some of the most famous sights and sounds of south western Iceland, courtesy of Extreme Iceland on their Golden Circle Surprise Tour.
With temperatures barely above freezing the snow was starting up again as we made our way up to Þingvellir, or Thingvellir to us Anglicised folk. It was here, over 1000 years ago (in 930 to be precise) that the first ‘Athing’ was held – an open air assembly representing the whole of Iceland, who met once a year until 1798. Here, weather permitting, you can see yet another meeting point, between the two tectonic plates – American and Euroasian plates, who’s boundaries run right through Iceland and are clearly visible at this point – provided you’re not stuck in a blizzard. If you are stuck in a blizzard, then you probably won’t see more than an intricately frosted van window, like the one below.
After we had managed to get back down from Thingvellir and the blizzard it was time to warm up at the Geothermal Area. Having soaked ourselves to oblivion in the Blue Lagoon yesterday, today’s geothermal adventure was all about the geysir and other hot bubbling puddles dotted about the site. Erupting every 7-10 minutes, it’s well worth hanging out for 20-30 minutes so you can get some great stills and video footage of the geysir exactly as it erupts – it’s really quite mesmerising.
Despite the spouts of boiling water and plumes of hot steam, the ground will still be frozen (if visiting between November and late February) so before too long you will find yourself heading down to the Geysir Hotel Restaurant for some very rich hot chocolate. At this point it will be around lunch time, so it’s worth stocking up on snacks for the journey ahead, or diving into a fine plate of very chunky fresh fish fingers and chips – filling, warm and oh so tasty – before you hit the road again.
Once fed, watered and warmed up we headed out to Gullfoss Falls (the Golden Falls) and Crater Kerið. Even in the cold, with thick icicles hanging from it, Gullfoss is still a beast to behold, fuelled by the glacial river Hvítá beating down on the rocks below, it’s quite deafening even looking down on it from above. As the sun was beginning to set it was becoming more and more unbearable to be out, so after selfie central we missioned over to Kerið just as the moon was coming out, which made for quite an etherial setting. Until one chap pulled up in his car, got out dressed in an entire ski suit, and proceeded to unzip and have a pee…he MUST have been a local as I can’t think of anyone else who could stomach such freezing temperatures to pee in a giant crater!
Back in the van, and more ravenous than ever, we made our way to Fjorubordid, a langoustine restaurant on the coast of Stokkseyri in Selfoss. Having heard great reviews of this place, we were beside ourselves with excitement. Despite having just had lunch, dinner couldn’t come soon enough, but not before a lovely drive through the frozen crisp white landscape – now that the skies had cleared – for the most beautiful sunset.
Feeling like it should be about midnight we eventually arrived at the restaurant – it was only 630pm, and we’d only been driving for a couple of hours. In we piled, and were quickly and efficiently served by friendly staff. Oh wow, the food was amazing, the best langoustine I have ever tried – our guide was right, he had picked a winner. Just as we were finishing off our monstrous chocolate meringue desserts (yes, they were pretty damn good) our guide raced back in apologising and urging us to finish up as quickly as we could; he’d just had a tip off from a friend about a sighting of the northern lights on the horizon. Back in we jumped, off we sped, as if we were storm chasers, only searching for much calmer, greener storms…in the dark.
Half an hour later, in the pitch black, we park up and jump out into a blast of freezing cold air, we rig up our cameras and wait…nothing. We begin to wonder if this is all just an elaborate ploy, an Icelandic joke – to get tourists cold and tired to the point of delusion, and then shine lights in the sky. We also, on first impressions, thought it was just a trick of the night sky, or our eyes…or both, but very, very faintly in the distance, we saw a subtle glimmer of green, it grew brighter and shifted across the sky, as if someone had pulled a curtain over a window in a blustery wind. It almost pulsed at times. Despite the fact it was very far off in the distance, over another large town, they were clear enough to catch even on a small point and shoot camera with a mini tripod. After staying out for as long as possible, until our fingers finally gave up from the cold, we reluctantly returned to the van, Iceland had done us proud and shown us that in this world of modern day chaos, there is still good reason to believe in magic!