My 21st birthday had arrived and we finally had a rental car to start ticking some items off of that ‘bucket list‘. The only thing was that by the time we had dragged ourselves out of bed and picked up the car – it was way too late to do what I had originally planned.
I had planned to make the drive up to Snaefellsjoekull National Park which would have taken 3 hours each way. Not forgetting the hours spent on top of that seeing the volcanos, glaciers and caves all contained within the park, we wouldn’t have got back to the hotel until around midnight. It doesn’t sound like an issue until you take into account that it was the first day Jordan was driving a car on the ‘wrong’ side of the road…on the ‘wrong’ side of the car…in a country he’s never driven in before. It would have been hell for him.
Instead, we decided to make a slightly shorter journey to a few sights that were a bit closer. Our first stop was Kerið – a volcanic crater lake approximately one and a half hours away from our hotel. When we arrived, the surrounding scenes were beautiful. Iceland (well at least in the south-west) has such a wide variety of landscapes within just a small area of land. You could look in one direction and see snow-covered mountains, then look in another direction and see a mixture of greens, reds and oranges like the beginning of Autumn.
Unfortunately, we weren’t visiting at the right time of year to be able to see the vivid colours that sometimes cover the inside of the crater but Kerið was still an incredible sight. We were able to follow the footpath circling the top of the crater and then make our way down the steps towards the water’s edge. While walking the footpath, the views either way were breathtaking, with something different to marvel at in every direction.
As you can see from the photo above, the water was partly frozen-over from the passing winter. There were signs dotted around the car park and paying booth* stating not to walk on the ice as it is thin and it would be very difficult to get help if you were to injure yourself. It only took 5 minutes after arrival, for a tourist to decide to run to the centre of the ice, causing the member of staff from the paying booth to have to climb down and tell them to make their way back.
Don’t be this person when you’re travelling/on holiday. If you take anything from this post…please let it be that.
After a quick lunch on a picnic bench over-looking the crater, we headed back on to the road to make our way towards Geysir. Another half an hour later and we arrived in a packed car park, surrounded by clouds of steam and the smell of rotten eggs (Sulphur stinks of rotten eggs – you’ll smell this a lot in Iceland). We didn’t really know what to expect as we hadn’t had much time to research before heading out but we were hoping to see at least one small eruption.
We walked with the rest of the crowd in the direction of the steam and became surrounded by pools of boiling water, bubbling on the surface. They started quite small but as we walked on, they became larger, with one in particular having quite an audience. As we were walking towards it, the geyser erupted around 200ft into the air and completely soaked a few photographers standing below it (it cools by the time it hits the ground again so no, it didn’t burn them). It turns out the geyser we were witnessing erupt was Geysir – one of Iceland’s most famous geysers and the origin for the word itself. If you’d like to see a short clip of Geysir erupting, visit my Instagram account @wheretonext.world where I’ll be uploading a video soon.
We must have witnessed it erupt around 7 times, each one between 5-10 minutes apart and I now know that we were so lucky as Geysir’s eruptions are known to often be infrequent and have previously stopped for years at a time. It was the only one we saw erupt but it was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t recommend it enough. It’s so unlike anything I’ve ever seen that it never seized to fascinate me every time it went off. I happily would have stayed there all day.
Since we still had a few hours left before the sun was due to set, we decided to make our way to Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and largest city. Since we parked in it’s car park – the first thing we visited was Harpa which is a concert hall made famous for it’s unusual architecture. The building is made up of coloured glass panels arranged to resemble Iceland’s basalt landscape. It’s an amazing building to view from both the outside and inside and I would have loved to have been able to watch a concert inside.
Walking through Reykjavik was like being in a completely different country. The buildings were beautiful and modern, there was a Subway packed with English-speakers and street art covering the walls. It was as if we were in a quirky part of London – only a bit less busy and a bit more hilly. Other than that, the city had something special on every corner – whether it was the Hallgrimskirkja church or the Sun Voyager – the city simply oozed culture and loved to tell its own story. I’d go back as soon as I got the chance and spend longer finding out what else it has to offer.
As you can tell, my birthday definitely wasn’t the typical 21st most people have these days and I’m sure there are several people who think that it sounded boring or uneventful, but it’s exactly what I wanted. I got to tick not one, but two items off of my ‘bucket list‘: “witness a geyser erupt” and “log my first geocache” which I unexpectedly discovered between two rocks on the coastline of Reykjavik. On top of that, I got the spend the night eating Pringles, watching Grand Designs and coming up with ideas on how to cross another item off of the list…”build my own home”.
*You do need to pay a small fee to view Kerið, although this may seem unnecessary, it means they can maintain the car park and pay employees to keep an eye out so tourists don’t cause any damage.