Around Iceland in 14 Days
August 2009

Reykjavík & Golden Circle

The Trip: 
Trip report written by Jane.  Departure from Atlanta, Georgia, USA on August 16, 2009.  Departure from Boston on Icelandic Air, arriving in Reykjavík at 6:30am on Monday the 17th.
We took the ring road (Route 1) around the island going anti-clockwise over a period of 2 weeks.  An additional week would have been nice as we missed several points of interest.
Weather:  Summer in Iceland.  Lowest temperature during this trip, 2 degrees C (35F).  Highest temperature 15 C (59F).  Average high of around 13C (55F) the first week and 9C (48F) the second week.
Population:  300,000
Languages:  Primarily Icelandic, but most people also spoke some English, either fluently or only barely.
Pronunciation: Đ and the lower case đ are pronounced as the 'th' in lather.
Ţ or ţ is like a P with the loop in the middle of the downward stroke, pronounced 'th' as in thin.
There are a lot of other pronunciation irregularities that I won't get into.  Good luck reading this trip report.  :)

Guide book used:  Lonely Planet 'Iceland' 2007 edition

Robert & Jane at the Viking Monument in Reykjavík.

Monday, August 17:  We landed in Reykjavík at 6:30 on Monday morning.  We rented a car and drove into the city.  We saw the Viking monument on the waterfront, went to Hallgrímskirkja, the big concrete church on the hill and walked along a few of the city streets.  Several of the streets were cobble, which made the place look very quaint.  The buildings also had interesting rooflines and adornments.  We then went to the National Museum of Iceland which was a good place to start as we got to see some of the history of the country and the people.

A street in downtown

We then found a campground and set up our tent.  At the campground they had several shelves full of things that people left behind before getting on the plane to go home.  We got several half used fuel canisters, enough instant pasta and rice dishes for 2 weeks, a plastic container with lid, cutting board and even a straw mat which we used in the doorway to the tent.  With all the goodies we got there we didn't have to buy much food.

Before going to bed we went for a drive along the coast.  We went to Seltjarnarnes lighthouse and saw the small island of Viđey from the dock.  We got back to the campground at 9:30 and went to bed.  Even though there were a lot of tents around us everyone was very quiet and we quickly went to sleep.


Gullfoss on the Golden Circle (foss means waterfall)

Tuesday, August 18:  We got up at 7am to sun and clear skies, mostly.  We packed up, had a nice hot shower then did a last sweep of the kitchen to see what people had left.  I got a jar of jam, bread, oatmeal, some more pasta dinners and a few other odds and ends.  Staying at this campground was WELL worth it for all the supplies we were able to get for free.  Groceries are about 3 times more expensive than in the US.  From there we headed out on the Golden Circle.

Our first stop was Ţingvellir which is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are separating.  There is an immense rift valley where the plates are still moving apart at a rate of 2mm per year.  This is also the site where the Vikings established the world's first democratic parliament.  There aren't any ruins left from those times but saga writings describe the site and events of that time.

We went to Geysir on Rt35, the original hot-water spout after which all other geysers around the world are named.  Unfortunately this geyser got blocked in the 1950's but the smaller Strokkur geyser near Geysir was reliably interesting as it went off every 4 to 5 minutes.  By the time we got there it was totally overcast with a strong wind blowing.  Several people unknowingly standing downwind of the geyser got totally soaked when it spurted.

Gullfoss was really impressive (picture above).  The wind was still blowing very hard so the spray from the falls was blown all around.  As we were heading back to the car it started to drizzle, but it quickly cleared up.

The Golden Circle is very crowded as most people who only have a few days in the country do that as they get to see several attractions not far from Reykjavík.  It is worth seeing, but be prepared to work yourself around people pouring out of tour busses.

The shower house at Seljaland campground with a view of Seljalandsfoss

On our way south we stopped at the town of Selfoss to get supplies at the Bonus supermarket.  They had most of the items you would expect to find but they lacked variety.  We got a couple of cans of refried beans (they had a good selection of Mexican food), some canned tomatoes and fresh bread and fresh vegetables.  Fresh fruit is very expensive but they even had some exotics you would not expect to find, like kiwi and mangoes.

Then on to the two falls on the coast near Seljaland on Rt 249.  The falls were beautiful.  A tour bus had just left so we had the place to ourselves.  There is a campground at the foot of the smaller of the two falls, Gljúfurárfoss.  There were only about 5 other people camping there so we had a whole field to ourselves.  Above is a picture of the shower house.  The buildings were built into a hill with a portion of the building under ground.  One building had a grass roof, which we saw a lot in Iceland.  They also had an additional building where there was a kitchen, laundry room and small sitting room.

Our campsite under Gljúfurárfoss

As we were going to bed at 9:30 it started to drizzle.  During the night we were woken up by the force of the wind crushing our tent down on top of us.  It is a four season tent so it is quite sturdy.  Fortunately there wasn't any damage but the tent sure took a beating.


Reykjavík &
Golden Circle

South Coast

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September 2009