May 26, 2018: Welcome to Iceland
WowAir, a budget Icelandic airline started flying to Los Angeles in 2017. I kept seeing amazing flight deals to Iceland. In March 2018, I saw a flight deal to Iceland over the Memorial Day weekend. At $450, this was probably the price I would pay to fly domestically for that weekend.
I booked it on a whim leaving Friday after work and returning that Monday evening. It would be a weekend trip to Iceland!
Unfortunately the cheap flight was the only cheap thing about this trip. Iceland is considered the 3rd or 4th most expensive country to live in. My other pre-bookings were a blue lagoon ticket ($100), car rental ($75/day off-airport, on-airport is more than double), AirBNB the first night ($120), and hostel bed for my second night ($50). Luckily, a friend agreed to go with me so we were able to split some of the group costs saving me about $150. Unluckily, that same friend had to cancel a week before the trip so it was just me on an all-too-familiar solo international trip.
The flight on WowAir was definitely a unique international flight experience. I had to pay for food/water/any luggage larger than my backpack- sort of like Spirit or Frontier Airlines in the US. Luckily, the seats have plenty of legroom (there must be some EU standard on this). The flight attendants- all gorgeous Icelandic women- wore the most ridiculous hot pink outfits.
8 hours later, we landed at Iceland’s Keflavík International Airport at 10:30am! The weather was 45 degrees with 20 knot winds and a forecasted 2 inches of rain for the day. After a most relaxing customs experience, I got into the shuttle and rented my sedan for the long weekend.
The airport is located in a rural area 45 kilometers from the city so I immediately was thrust into the igneous solitude that characterizes most of Iceland.
20 or so minutes from the airport, I reached the fishing village of Grindavík on the south coast of the small peninsula with the airport. I stopped for lunch and ordered the famous lobster soup. The price? $20 for a bowl. Of soup. On the bright side, it came with free refills of bread. The soup was fantastic for the record.
Continuing on, I drove for another hour or so before reaching the town of Selfoss. There only noticeable thing here was a museum dedicated to Bobby Fischer, the American chess grandmaster. Fischer is best known for his world famous 1972 match against Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union. The match took place in Reykyavik, the capital of Iceland. For what sounded like political and psychological reasons, he gave up chess, became very anti-America and eventually found political refuge in Iceland. He is buried outside of Selfoss, about 5 minutes from the museum. Random, right?
The weather was rough, but I kept on for another hour through what looked like flat terrain. I crossed a large river and then all of a sudden saw a gigantic 200ft tall waterfall on the edge of a bare mountainside. The waterfall is called Seljalandsfoss (Icelandic words are long and difficult to pronounce).
This waterfall has a pathway that lead behind it!
Just 400 meters away was another waterfall called Gljúfrabúi. This one was special because it fell into a cave and the only way to see it is to wade up the cave through the ankle deep water. I took an epic picture here.
Continuing south, I traced the coastal Ring Road around the steep southern slopes of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull. Eventually, I reached the magnificent Skogafoss waterfall whose waters flows from the massive glacier Myrdalsjökull.
Skogafoss has a pathway leading to the top (and eventually onward to the glaciers of the interior of Iceland). It rained so hard that my “waterproof” jacket became drenched inside and out. The rain also made it very difficult to take a picture because my camera lenses kept getting wet.
Just next to Skogafoss is a cool cultural museum. The highlight was the turf homes which are partially built into the earth. The museum is well worth a visit because there are few cultural activities in the area.
Another hour of driving later, I rescued the southern tip of Iceland: Reynisfjara Beach. The beach has pure black sand, made even darker from the rain. I can see this place being the home of an evil witch or warlock- it just exuded wickedness. I found 3 spots to view the beach: Dyrholaey on a high black cliff.
The middle of Reynisfjara, with columnar basalt on the beach.
And finally in the town of Vik (finally a short Icelandic name!) with solitude and a memorial to German sailors.
I could have continued onward on the Ring Road to see a glacial lagoon at Jökulsarlón, but it was now about 8pm and I was getting tired. So, I headed back to my AirBNB near Skogafoss.
My Airbnb was a 6-room sharehouse and was full of couples driving their way around Iceland. Everyone was very nice and shocked that I went here for the weekend. For dinner I ate a sandwich that I brought from the US, saving me at least $50. I went to bed around 11. The sun set at 10:45 but it never truly got dark. All in all this was an unbelievable day. Tomorrow was going to be another big day driving the Golden Circle.