The Ring Road: Northstar Guesthouse to Reykjavik (Day 6)

Days: 448 (16 September 2015)

Total distance travelled: 117,968.5 kilometres (73,272.34 miles)

Our final day on the road lay ahead, and it was a big one, with close to four hundred kilometres for us to cover before we could finally put the feet up in Reykjavik for our final night in Iceland.

The skies were fairly blue, although there was a touch of morning haze and streaky cloud about, but we stuck to our plan and made our first stop the same as the previous days last, Seljalandsfoss.

At this early hour of the day, there was only one other soul about, and not a tour bus in sight (although one did pull in as we were leaving), making it a wonderful time to be there and a great start to the day.

A Seljalandsfoss kind of morning

A Seljalandsfoss kind of morning

We were straight back on the road and eager to get some distance under our belt as today we actually had a deadline.

We’d booked tickets for the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s most famous geothermal pool.

The catch is, you need to nominate an arrival time, and from that point, you have an hour by which you must collect, or else forfeit your tickets (with no refund)!

So with 3pm our booked hour, we were gunning to get there by 4pm!

I’d mistakenly assumed that Selfoss, a larger town (by Icelandic standards) of over four thousand people was also housing some falls (it was the foss on the end that got me) which was untrue, so we quickly continued on our merry way.

A short time later we pulled into a windswept parking lot, a handful of other cars again evidence that we were much closer to the capital (and therefore well within day tripper range) for what was a bit of an anomaly throughout the whole of our road-trip.

This was Kerið, an impact crater lake.

It wasn’t the type of crater that was the anomaly, but rather the fact that here, there was an entrance fee!

The cost of visiting Iceland is something that we’ve already touched upon, however impressively, given how fucking expensive it is to eat and sleep, the natural sights have been thankfully free of cost… until now.

Moments of doubt passed through our minds as we began to wonder if this was to set the tone for the day (after all, we were now back in the tourist belt), nevertheless, we stumped up the cash and decided to take a look.

Paying the price to visit Kerið

Paying the price to visit Kerið

It wasn’t a bad site, just unfortunately after many of the wow moments, this place wasn’t in the same league as some of our other stops during this island circuit.

Then there was the wind.

It was howling! To the point that we wondered should we edge too near to the lip of the crater, one gust just may be enough to see us topple in!

By the time we had our car seats warmed again, we were almost ready to again hop out, this time having turned briefly off our main, we were now headed towards the tiny hamlet of Skálholt, or more precisely the location of its church.

The not so ancient looking church of Skálholt (left) & Always, we’re suckers for a good mosaic (right)

The not so ancient looking church of Skálholt (left) & Always, we’re suckers for a good mosaic (right)

Whilst the church may be modern, this place is an important archaeological site within Iceland, as this place was both the centre for religion as well as the political capital of the country for roughly seven centuries (up until the end of the 18th century).

Although there were some cool headstones in the attached cemetery and another turf church (or at least turf building), other than an impressive mosaic within, we were more than happy to take the arrival of a tour bus as our cue (or should that be excuse?) to leave.

We were mindful of the time given our aforementioned deadline, however we weren’t prepared to concede on any of the sights ahead.

After all, you (the sights ahead) must be pretty impressive to be some of the country’s most well known… or perhaps just geographically fortunate, again being close enough to the only true city on the island.

First up was Geysir, simply named, and not surprisingly, a geyser is exactly what it was.

Fortunately for the crowds that had gathered (they formed a thick circle around a thermal pool), Geysir is a pretty regular beast, launching its spout of hot water into the air every five minutes or so.

It looked like some of the serious photographer types had been camped here the whole morning…

Geysir, in various states of blow

Geysir, in various states of blow

There were some other things to see besides the rowdy one, so if you could tear your eyes away from the spot where hot water would jet up every few minutes, you could take in some hot pools of a stunning blue, as well as a much less impressive hot spring, and that general steamy haze everywhere.

Fortunately all of this is really short walk from the carpark, so thankfully for our limited time budget we were able to cram all of this in as well as a quick toilet break before getting back on the road.

Hot pools in a hot colour!

Hot pools in a hot colour!

Iceland had to date delivered us some stunning falls (that’d be of the cascading water variety, we hadn’t had major issues keeping our feet), and this final day of the road-trip produced one final gem.

The winds that had threatened us at Kerið were again causing havoc, my baseball cap nearly lost to us early on, but none of this detracted from the grandeur, nor from our first impression of Gullfoss.

This thing was both powerful and immense!

Getting our first awesome look at Gullfoss!

Getting our first awesome look at Gullfoss!

Despite our distance from the falls, we were copping the spray fully in our faces, which in turn makde viewing and photography particularly difficult.

We pushed forward along a path that hugged the canyon walls and shortly we escaped both the wind and dampening spray, allowing us to fully appreciate this monster.

It was a tiered cascade, the final section tumbling into a narrow ravine and off to the right and out of our range of vision.

This thing was awesome!

Gullfoss in all of its immense glory (Click on image to enlarge)

Gullfoss in all of its immense glory (Click on image to enlarge)

It was possible to venture out onto a rocky perch, right near the top of the falls where the waters first tumbled over the lip, and as it could be done, we decided that it should be done.

As soon as we made this position which was itself in fact made of an upper and lower ledge (the lower being sheltered by the other), we clambered atop and were immediately again struck by a wall of spray

The waters would shoot by, but we didn’t linger too long, as all we were doing was getting ourselves slowly damp.

Besides, the better action was a little lower anyway, where the raging waters tumbled away down that rocky shute…

Where the waters eventually meet the sea… apparently somewhere near the town of Selfoss

Where do these waters eventually meet the sea? …apparently somewhere near the town of Selfoss

Some images attached to an information board above the falls showed the region during winter, a stunning view with the landscape blanketed in snow and looking like reason enough to return here… one day!

Next we got a little political, at least in a very loose sense.

We were heading straight to Þingvellir National Park, famous both as the site of the Alþingi, the ancient annual sitting of the Icelandic parliament (beginning in 930 AD) and as the point where both the European and North American continental plates divide.

By now we were well into the early afternoon, so lunch was another sandwiches affair on the fly, before we raced around a small section of the national park.

The site of Alþingi, one of the worlds two oldest parliaments (left) & Crossing the Euro-American divide (right)

The site of Alþingi, one of the worlds two oldest parliaments (left) & Crossing the Euro-American divide? (right)

There was one activity here that we would have loved to have indulged in, but we simply hadn’t the time.

It is entirely possible to either snorkel, or as we would have liked, to dive between the continental divide… with the aid of a dry suit of course!

But sadly today was all above water, not to say that the experience was at all sad.

After all, we were immersed in yet another if Iceland’s incredibly scenic locations, this particular location also steeped in history.

Water falls on the continental divide (Click on image to enlarge)

Water falls on the continental divide (Click on image to enlarge)

We hustled back to our car, then got our skates on and made our exit from the park (on the opposite side from which we’d entered).

The kilometres ticked over, and after first re-joining route 1, the main highway that circuits the island, we were soon enough again in sight of Reykjavik, the island nations capital.

It however, was not our destination, so we merely skirted our way around on our way south, essentially heading back towards the airport.

Fortunately we didn’t need to travel the full distance to Keflavik (where the international airport can be found), and it was some relief when we were finally turning off the highway and travelling the short remaining distance to the lagoon… with maybe half an hour to spare!

No surprise here… Blue pools on the approach to the famous Blue Lagoon

No surprise here! Blue pools on the approach to the famous Blue Lagoon

We checked in, got assigned electronic wrist bands, before going our separate ways into the segregated (no surprise there) changing rooms, from where we’d make our way to the pools directly.

In true Iceland style, the cost for us to hire towels was exorbitant, so we settled on using our small (seriously small) travel towel between us.

What went on behind the closed doors that shield the women’s changing rooms remains a mystery to me, however having showered (it is a requirement that you shower before entering the lagoon) and waiting for several minutes, I entered the pools assuming they’d made it there before me.

Apparently not, so I sat down in the shallow water, enjoying its warmth as I waited… and waited… and waited.

Eventually, probably ten to fifteen minutes later, Sarah and Julie (her mum) finally emerged!

Turns out a queue had formed in their changing facilities, after they’d needed to use the toilets before heading towards the pool, only to be held up by some modest Chinese women who had commandeered the cubicles and used them to get changed!

Now, after six days on the road, we were ready to relax… although we’d originally figured we might as well indulge in a beer as well, but this was quickly dumped as idea, given how warm it was in the waters.

Even one beer, would have likely gone straight to our head!

Instead, we found a nice spot beside a bubbling hot geyser, and just relaxed.

Sure, it was expensive, but after all the time spent gallivanting around this stunning island, and indulgence seemed well and truly called for!

After all, we were flying out the very next day…

Frankie says relax! Kicking back in the Blue Lagoon

Frankie says relax! Kicking back in the Blue Lagoon

As such, we even splurged on an expensive dinner out for our last night in Reykjavik, or more accurately, we were treated by Julie!

A tapas like meal, with a selection of local delicacies, although we deliberately chose not to have their selection of whale or puffin…

Our time in Iceland was amazing, albeit an expensive experience.

Is Iceland the best country we’ve visited… probably not

Is Iceland the best country we’ve visited… probably not

 

Notes:

* Our hire car for our loop around Iceland cost us $144,590.97 ISK ($1,553.96 AU, which breaks down to $258.99 AU per day, or $86.33 per person, per day)

* We purchased $27,846.00 ISK ($299.49 AU) worth of fuel during our island loop, which was 141.81 litres of fuel.

* Entrance into the crater Kerið was $350.00 ISK per person.

* We needed to book the Blue Lagoon in advance, with us opting for the ‘Standard’ (read basic) entrance package at 35.00 per person (the luxury options can go as high as 165.00).

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6 Responses to The Ring Road: Northstar Guesthouse to Reykjavik (Day 6)

  1. simonjkyte says:

    god car hire is expensive there

  2. Gullfoss is really immense and its majestic splendour awe inspiring. I can very well imagine your experience being drenched by the spray and hearing the thunderous roar of the water cascading down.

  3. Mar Pages says:

    Sounds like a scene out of the Amazing Race at first. But happy you guys got to your destination, even if it was a bit pricey. You definitely got some amazing shots (and I’m sure a few brilliant memories) from it.

  4. backpackways says:

    Odd to see that such an impressive Kerið didn’t seem that amazing to you as other places in the country. 😉

    Although a bit expensive, but seems like it was absolutely worth.

  5. Iceland sounds amazing! We would really enjoy the waterfalls and the geysers. I have to admit that I was really disappointed to find out that the Blue Lagoon was man-made.

  6. Ami Bhat says:

    I am beginning to discover that Iceland has so much more beyond the Northern lights. Your pictures and accounts of the waterfalls and hot springs are just adding to that . Loved the write up for all this information.

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