Travelled by hire car from Keflavic Airport to our wooden holiday lodge at Utey; overlooking the lake and mountain backdrop at Laugarvatn. Utey is situated in the ‘Golden Circle’ region of South West Iceland. A perfect base for exploring so many of the geological features that this amazing country has to offer.
A short drive to Geysir (free parking & entry) to observe the regular Strokkur geyser eruptions and bubbling, steaming hot springs.
Followed by a visit to the dramatic falls at Gullfoss (free parking & entry). Cafes and gift shops at both sites.
A short drive to Pingvellir National Park (9000 year old lava field) where the European and North American continental plates are widening by 1.5 cms per year. We paid a visit to both the Information Centre (free parking) and the Visitor Centre (small carpark charge but free entry to the lookout, canyon & waterfall).
Amazing views from the lookout over Pingvallavatn lake and Pingvellir Church (1018) followed by a walk within the Rift Valley (Almannagja Canyon), across the Assembly Plains (Logberg) to Oxarafoss waterfall (20 metres high). Cafes and gift shops at both centres.
A longer drive (200 miles) in the hire car from Laugarvatn to Selfoss to Reynisdranger on the South coast. Stopping initially at Seljandfoss falls (60 metres high), four falls the first of which you can walk behind (free parking & entry). Small outdoor cafe at the site.
Driving on past Eyjafjallajokull volcano whose last eruption caused suspended flights & delays in 2010, (free parking but entrance fee to the volcano visitor centre).
Next stop at Skogafoss falls (62 metres cascade) with a rainbow at its base and 500+ steps to the viewing platform at the top of the falls from which you can overlook the coast and walk further upstream in the mountains (free parking & entry). Several cafes and shops nearby.
The main road takes you past snow capped mountains and the glacier as you drive down to Dyrholaey Island, a bird spotting nature reserve accessed by a causeway (free Carpark & entry). Concluding our day trip at Reynisdranger with its black volcanic sand beach, basalt columns, sea cave and volcanic stacks and arches. Lamb soup and Skyr cake at the ‘Black Beach Cafe’ was welcome (free parking).
A short drive to the Kerio crater, a 70 metre deep scoria cone and lake (entry fee). Followed by a trip into the steaming hot spring hills of Reykjadalur (free parking, outdoor cafe) overlooking the ‘hothouse town’ of Hverageroi. Down in the town, the 2008 earthquake here created a fissure which can be viewed under the glass floor of the shopping centre (free parking).
Afternoon drive to The Secret Lagoon (The Gamla Laugin) where we enjoyed steamy bathing in Iceland’s oldest swimming pool. The waters are warmed by very active thermal springs (free parking and on site cafe).
A drive through vast, desolate lava fields following Iceland’s longest river; Pjorsa.
Followed by a brief stop at the Viking Homestead reconstruction at Pjooveldisbaerina, a remote spot with the buildings exhibiting low grass covered roofs.
Before taking Route 32 to Hraunejar with snow capped active Hekla volcano to our right. Late afternoon we stopped at Skalholt Cathedral en route back to our holiday home, you can admire beautiful stained glass windows and see the original earthworks for the previous religious settlement.
Finally, very late in the evening, the Northern Lights made an appearance; from the verrandah we viewed several wondrous streaks of green and red which danced and swirled before they disappeared at 2.15am! Another tick off the ‘bucket list’.
A day spent in Reykjavik, plenty of cheap parking near the sea front and concert hall. Visited the undercover weekend flea market to browse silver lava jewellery (considerably cheaper there) and try food samples (donuts, liquorice, chocolate and fermented shark). The cafe in the market served tasty paprika fries, hot drinks and cakes.
An afternoon walk via the lake and then short trek uphill to Iceland’s largest church; Hallgrimskirkja. Followed by hot drinks in ‘Roasters’ arty coffee shop which was playing good old fashioned vinyl . Concluded our city visit by strolling around the main shopping streets.
A return visit to Pingvellir National Park to walk along the shores of Pingvallavatn lake and to visit Silfra, one of the worlds best dive sites, where a chasm is flooded and the water is a gorgeous turquoise blue. Good views of the innocuous looking, snow covered Skjaldbreiour volcano from the national park.
This was followed by a short drive to Geysir in the afternoon where we had the good fortune to see Strokkur erupt three times in quick succession.
A relaxing day spent at Fontana Spa with a sprinkling of snow during our visit. We took a bread-making tour first to witness rye bread being cooked in the ground adjacent to geothermal springs that bubbled at the edge of the lake. We sampled the warm, dark bread with thick butter and had the opportunity to buy the remainder of the loaf.
The spa consisted of geothermally heated saunas/steam rooms, a bathing platform into the icy lake, several pools of varying temperatures and a restaurant (which served a good buffet lunch).
Cheapest supermarkets are the ‘Bonus’ chain; look out for the pink pig on a yellow background in the towns. Alcohol can only be purchased from off licences (Vinbudin), not supermarkets. If you haven’t hired a 4×4 you shouldn’t be travelling on the F roads. Some tourist sites are closed during public holidays. Spas rules are that you shower naked prior to entry in the pools. Some interior roads aren’t open until the summer months. Currency is Icelandic Krona. English is widely spoken.