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Reykjavik and Surrounds

Posted by on February 4, 2016

If you know us, you know we don’t like cities. So why did we spend 3 days in Reykjavik? Why, to have better access to the Northern Lights tours, of course! (Are you sick of hearing about them yet?!?!?)

During these 3 days we spent more time out of Reykjavik than in it. Here’s our tale.

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is a popular tourist destination about a 1.5-hour drive outside of the city. We had visited the 3 famous sites in the Circle during our visit last summerÞingvellir, Geysir, and Gulfoss.

This year we intended to do the same, but the weather had other ideas.

On our drive to Þingvellir — also known as Assembly Plains, where Icelanders have gathered for centuries to makes laws — the temperature dropped, snow was blowing everywhere, and the wind kicked up a gale.

Aye, aye, aye!

Can you feel the piercing wind as it blows the snow across the road? Brrrrrrr!!!!

Blowing snow

We got to the overlook at Þingvellir and took our obligatory pictures while listening to the wind howl.

Pingvellir

The below pic is of the rift between the European and Atlantic tectonic plates. The plates pull apart about an inch each year.

Plates

This was the first time we fully comprehended why they encourage windblown door insurance. If we were not holding on to them, they could have blown off. Woah.

Once we got back in the car, we decided to opt out of the rest of the circle and go back to Reykjavik.

Southeast to Vik

The next day we skipped the rest of the Golden Circle since we’d heard the roads were terrible. So we went to Plan B and drove the Ring Road southeast out of Reykjavik to Vik.

We’d liked this route in summer and looked forward to seeing the winter counterpart. If you want to compare the pix from winter to summer, check out the summer post here.

Our first stop was the waterfall Seljalandsfoss. As seen from the Ring Road, it doesn’t look very big.

Seljalandsfoss from road

But once you get closer, you realize just how big these waterfalls are – which provides perspective for the grandeur of the Icelandic landscape. Simply stunning.

Here is Jeff setting up his shot. Do you see the icicles hanging to the left of falls? Again…brrrrrrrr!!!!

Jeff and Seljalandsfoss

Here is a better view of the icicles and can you see the (completely) frozen staircase to the right in the picture below? (Hint: you have to look closely!) In summer, you can walk behind this waterfall. In winter, not so much.

Seljalandsfoss

Up the road apiece was Skógafoss waterfall. Again, it looks ordinary from the Ring Road.

Skogafoss from Road

But once up close, it’s easy to appreciate the power coming over this cliff.

Skogafoss

In the below pic, you can see the long shadows of Jeff and I (and 2 other photographers). We visited around 3pm, so this shows how low the sun stays in the sky.

Skogafoss shadow

From Skógafoss, we went up the road to Dyrhólaey, home of the black sand beach. Mmmmm. I think this was my favorite winter spot. The contrast of white on black was truly gorgeous.

Dyrholaey pano

This area is known (at least in tourist books) for its rock arch on the coastline.

We went to this area looking for the arch and missed it — again!!! We had tried last year to no avail. We think this time we found the right road, but it went straight up and was covered with snow. So we decided against it and checked out the beach again.

Dyrholaey waves

Ironically enough, here we were in the middle of nowhere with about 3 other cars in the parking lot and who did I run into but a couple from Raleigh, NC! It’s a small, small world.

On our way out, we couldn’t pass up taking one more pic of that beach. Stunning.

Dyrholaey

After our day trip to the South, we then went back to Reykjavik and explored that area a bit.

Reykjavik at Last

Here is the view from our 6th floor AirBnB in the city. While cities aren’t our thing, cities surrounded by water and mountains are the best kind!!

Reyk rooftops
About a 5 min walk away was Hallgrímskirkja, an iconic Lutheran Church in the city.  We used this building to keep our bearings while we explored the streets.

Hallsmkirkja

Colorful buildings are sprinkled throughout the city.

Reykjavik color

This is the most creative one we encountered…on the main shopping street.

Reykjavik color 2
Harpa, the Concert Hall, overlooked the water. This reminded me very much of the Sydney Opera House in its unique design that stood out markedly from the rest of the city.

Harpa
That’s about all we can tell you about Reykjavik! But we thank you for joining us on our winter escapade!

We hope you enjoy this parting shot from wintry Iceland…until next time!!!! Cheers, J&J

Parting shot

6 Responses to Reykjavik and Surrounds

  1. DSG

    So many interesting items in this tale! From tectonic plates to door insurance to running into someone from NC (What?!) to the freezing cold photos. You 2 are troopers!

    • Jen

      Ha! This trip definitely was the closest we come to being “adventurous” — cold weather just isn’t our thing!!!! Woah!

  2. Barb

    Another amazing trip for the Curious Travelers. Spectacular photos. Thanks for sharing with us.

  3. Linda Koloda

    brrrrrr – makes me cold looking at the photos and reading your posts! Thanks for sharing – just beautiful!

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