Saturday, January 22, 2011

Reykjavik Day 5-6

My fifth day in Iceland, January 17th, was by far the most memorable of my stay. In the morning, I awoke to snow and took advantage of the few remaining hours on my Reyjavik Welcome Card and made my way back on the bus to Lauger Spa. I made an appointment for a 60-minute facial, which entitled me to pre-treatment time in the spa. Perhaps it is best to quote from the website directly in order to convey what I experienced there:
"In the spa you enter a aquatic heaven where you can indulge both body and soul. Six different saunas and steam rooms are kept at varying temperatures, each with its own fragrance and theme. Try jacuzzis with hot and cold subterranean sea water or enjoy the relaxation room, equipped whith comfortable benches and a centrally located fireplace."
While it was relaxing I found the interior a bit too dark and industrial for my tastes. Additionally, it did not feel like any of the saunas were kept at varying temperatures. At any rate, it simply prepared me for the facial that was to follow. The facial was just OK. For all of their advertising suggesting they use natural ingredients, I found the smell of the mask and moisturizer to be too alcoholic. The aesthetician was quite good. However, I found her accent a bit thick and never found out where she was from (She definitely was NOT from Iceland!)

In the afternoon, I went on a half-day Golden Circle Excursion with Iceland Excursions.  We only visited three major locations on this tour, ├×ingvellir National Park, Gulfoss waterfall, and Geysir, but each one of them were spectacular in their own way. Leaving Reyjakvik, in about 25 minutes the scenery changes dramatically. Aside from the snow-ridden road, there was few signs of humanity and the eye could see nothing but a white wonderland in all directions. I really wish I had had enough time to participate in the full-day tour, which evidently includes a 60-minute+ hike into the wilderness. 

├×ingvellir National Park
Our next stop was the magnificent Gulfoss waterfall. On the way there we encountered a thick fog that would have made me slow down if I were driving. Gulfoss was absolutely spectacular. I have been to Niagara Falls a number of times.  Perhaps it was the frozen arctic tundra, or the sheer grandioseness of the overall scene, but Gulfoss left a much stronger impression on me. There are actually three levels or "staircases," that comprise Gulfoss waterfall, and walking around gave an infinite number of  perspectives. If not #1, I would have to say that the Gulfoss waterfall is one of the most awe-inspiring sites I have seen in my life. 

Gulfoss waterfall 
As if the frigid wind was not enough, which caused my fingertips to turn red-purple with prolonged exposure to the air (necessary when taking photos or video!), while I was there a cold fog slowly creeped its towards me. By the time, I made my way to the on-site restaurant on top of the hill, visibility was less than 20 feet. I'm glad I made my way to Gulfoss first and took my photos before going inside to try "Iceland's best lamb soup."

The last stop on our tour was Geysir, the geysers from which all geysers in the world get their name. This term, in turn, is derived from the Icelandic verb geysa, which means "to gush." According to our tour guide, Geysir itself is no longer active. However, just a few minutes walk from Geysir is Srokkur, which erupts every 5-6 minutes. As our tour guide went inside to get warm (it was nearly 5:00PM, the sun had set and the temperature was plummeting), we all stayed behind for those 5-6 minutes to watch it blow and take some photos. 


We returned to Reyjakvik just after 7:00PM and I had dinner in the trendy Cafe Paris. 

The next day I did some last minute shopping and boarded a hotel shuttle at 11:30AM to take me to the BSI terminal. From there I boarded a bus bound for the Blue Lagoon, where I bathed in the hot waters for an hour or so before catching a bus to Keflavik Airport for my flight to London.

When I was planning this trip to Iceland, I was hesitant at first to include as many days as I did. I was concerned that there wouldn't be enough things to do to keep me occupied and that the weather and lack of daylight would keep me holed up in my hotel room. Looking back, I cannot believe that I considered staying fewer days than I did. This trip has sparked my interest in taking another trip to Iceland someday in the future, perhaps in the summer when there is nearly 24 hours of sunlight!

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