We arrived late at night (around 11:30pm) and picked up our rental car. Note, car rentals in Iceland are super expensive. Our 2 -day Iceland car rental cost slightly less than our 3 week car rental in Australia. The car rental companies have big signs warning you to hold your car doors at all times because the wind can be so strong that they rip off the doors or slam them into a limb that might be in the process of entering or exiting the car. Yikes!
We drove about 40 minutes to our hotel called Hotel Hafnarfjordur, which was about a 20-minute drive from the capital, Reykjavik. The drive was really cool because it wasn't fully dark yet -there was an orange glow coming from the horizon where the sun set. The hotel, on the other hand, was nothing special. It provided a comfortable room and decent breakfast at a reasonable rate (for Iceland). The guy working the front desk messed up the exchange rate and ended up charging us 50% more, which didn't occur to us at the time. We paid in cash, but luckily insisted on a receipt with the amount we paid, so we were able to sort out the difference the following morning and get a refund. It was a good reminder that, when traveling, always know your exchange rates before arrival and always insist on a receipt!
We were lucky the next day: it was a clear day and relatively warm. Since we had such lovely weather, we decided to drive the 'Golden Circle' - a name Iceland gave to a driving route that brings you to a series of sites including a massive waterfall and geysers. Here is what we saw:
One of my many quirks is that I strongly dislike anticipation. Things like a Jack-in-the-box or opening a champagne bottle bring me close to a nervous breakdown. Even the Jack-in-the-box song, Pop Goes the Weasel, causes my stress level to spike. Well, bubbles & Jack are no match for a geyser.
The largest active geyser in Iceland is called Strokkur and it's supposed to erupt about every 8-10 minutes. Having come from Germany, I was expecting this bad boy to run like clockwork. So I waited, and waited some more, and just when I gave up, BOOM, Strokkur shot water 20 meters into the air. Of course, I was caught off-guard, which resulted in me screaming and then cursing Strokkur. Overall, I'm glad I saw the geysers, but I definitely don't need visit them again.
The next morning we awoke to clouds and rain. Our flight departed late in the afternoon, so we decided to spend our last day at the Blue Lagoon - a geothermal spa located in a lava field fairly close to the airport. It was a great experience! You check in, change into your bathing suit and a robe, and then head out into the cold misty air for a second, only to immerse yourself into warm bright blue water surrounded by black lava fields. They provide silica mud, which is supposed to be good for your skin so you see people swimming around with white faces due to the caked mud they applied earlier. There is also a swim-up bar where you can get beer and different types of smoothies. We both enjoyed the experience and it was the perfect way to relax before our flight to Boston.
Afterwards, we checked into our flight to Boston and we were home by 8pm local time. Iceland is a great way to break up your trip back to the US from Europe for a few reasons:
1) It's only 5 hours away from the northeast coast of the US and just a few hours from much of Europe.
2) You start adjusting to the time change while in Iceland (since they are 2 hours behind most of Europe). By the time you get home, you really only have a day of slight jet lag.
3) Iceland Air is a really affordable airline so you can get a flight home from major Europen cities with a stop in Iceland for less than most flights home on other airlines. Keep in mind you can easily spend the difference while in Iceland. It's a very expensive country.
Iceland was a cool place to visit, but because it's so expensive, I wouldn't recommend planning a trip longer than 2 full days there, and I'd definitely tack it on to a trip to elsewhere in Europe.