Good Morning Iceland
I jolted awake to the jarring ring of the phone. Fuzzy headed and groggy, I answered.
“Good afternoon Ms Vasel…what time will you be checking out today?” The voice inquired.
“Um…maybe 11…” I glanced at the clock and noticed it said 12:00. Assuming the power had gone out, I looked to my cell phone, which confirmed 12:00. “Oh no!!…Holy cow!…we overslept!…I’m so sorry….we will be out in 20 minutes…” I stammered, shooting from the bed.
About 30 minutes later, after gathering snacks, Skyr and supplies for the road from a grocery store in Grindavik, we were on the road. Ring road…heading west for our first travel day.
Ring Road Iceland -Finding Graenavatn
We took a left off Ring Road onto 42, about a half hour from Grindavik, on our way to Seltun-Krysuvik geothermal area. We were still working with only the paper map and my handwritten itinerary. On our right, a lake came into view that looked like it was painted into the landscape with neon markers. I did a sharp u turn and doubled back to take a look.
The lake was ringed with the colors of a mermaid, all shimmering blues and greens. This is the volcanic crater Graenavatn or Greenlake. It is located right off a main road 42 and is about a 20 minute walk around the perimeter. The surreal beauty of Graenavatn was unexpectedly one of my favorite spots in Iceland.
Our Ring Road Itinerary Now Included Icelandic Horses
A short ways back on 42, there were a number of Icelandic horses close to the side of the road.
“Pull over!” Lesa yelled excitedly, smacking my arm repeatedly.
I screeched to a stop and we leaped out. The horses seemed excited too, as a number of them trotted towards us. We approached the wire fence and several horses were standing close enough to touch. Lesa pulled a handful of dried grass from next to her and held it out. A caramel colored horse leaned forward eagerly and took it from her, chewing with contentment. I grabbed a golden fistful and leaned hopefully towards a shining charcoal colored horse. The horse’s open mouth was moving closer to the grass when…
“My whole body jolted uncontrollably and I shot back, brain struggling to comprehend what had happened. My arm sizzled slightly where it had touched the wire.
“Oh my God! Is the horse ok!?” Lesa frantically shouted.
The charcoal horse stood, calmly chewing and blinking while I jumped around.
“The horse!!? I just got an electric shock!” I gasped.
“I know, but I was nervous maybe you hurt the horse.”
I sighed, shaking out my still zinging arm and snapped a few more photos of the horses and the boiling coal colored earth a few yards behind us.
Follow that Steam – Seltun-Krysuvik Geothermal Area Ahead
Further up 42, we came across the Seltun-Krysuvik geothermal area. Steam rose from bubbling mud pots and fumaroles as we hiked the wood plank path. Catching our breath at a platform, we were awestruck by the red and yellow earth marbled with black boiling mud. Sulfur burned our noses and we peered into billowing steam vents and gazed out over the horizon.
Back in the car, we headed back down 42 out onto Ring Road headed west. We stopped at the coast and at a scenic church, Strandarkirkja for photos. About 45 minutes later, we arrived at Kerud crater, along the Golden Circle. It was around 7 p.m.
At the Top of the Cauldera – Kerud Crater
Kerud crater is a 3000 year old volcanic caldera surrounded by a unique rainbow of red volcanic rock. We paid a small fee and were able to climb a trail that led around the top rim above the aquamarine lake. I had heard Bjork played a concert from a raft in the center of the lake. After the hike, we headed back on the road.
A Couple of Churches and a Turf House with a View
I stopped at Skalholtskirkja, a bigger white church on a hill, built in the 70’s. Nearby up the road, was a smaller, older church. Behind the church was a 4000 year old cemetery and a turf covered house with a vast view of the landscape. We were jumping all over, happy to lay eyes on our first turf house.
Check out Strokkur Geyser…Full of Hot Air
Further up the Golden Circle was Strokkur Geyser, Iceland’s most active geyser, erupting every 5-10 minutes. It is a popular stop on the Golden Circle. The geyser will blast steaming water up to heights of 15-20 meters but has reached heights of 40 meters at times. Along the path to the geyser are a number of bubbling mud pots and steaming sulfur fumaroles. Along the rim of the geyser, people jockey for position, cramming into the tightest spots along the roped off areas for a close up view.
The clear blue water undulates, almost breathing, sucking downward, then bubbling up. Breathing…breathing…until finally…a blast. A white eruption of water sprays straight into the air 20 meters above our heads. Cameras click frantically and oohs and aahs can be heard from the crowd. And just like that, the water falls and sinks down the ground hole like a flushed toilet. We watched several eruption cycles and headed back out to the Circle.
Gullfoss Waterfall – A Short Hike
Around 9 p.m., we made it to Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s most iconic waterfalls on the Golden Circle. A short hike brought us to an upper viewing area of the 2 tier spraying waterfall. About 50 steps down brought us to a lower viewing trail. The first tier drops about 459 cubic feet of water per second, down 36 ft to the second tier, which then cascades an additional 69 feet into the canyon. After taking in the view, exhausted, we began heading towards our guesthouse in Selfoss.
Finding Ring Road
The road back was deeply pocked and unpaved, limiting my driving to about 12 bumpy miles per hour. The sky shone shades of purple and orange with wisps of grey clouds. The sky was growing increasingly dark and without gps, I was somewhat nervous about where this road/on-road may be taking us.
“Is this even a road?” Lesa inquired.
” Yesss! Of course it is.” I responded with 90% more confidence than I felt. No phone signal, no GPS. We crept along, bumping slowly forward. Sheep looked up indignantly at us as we passed, disturbing their quiet evening.
We began seeing lights in the distance. Getting closer to a town, Lesa was able to briefly use her gps to guide us to our guesthouse. It was almost midnight and we were the last guests to arrive. Our host was in her jammies and robe as she led us grimly to our room. We were happy to be safe and able to rest up for tomorrow’s adventure.
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