Golden Circle Tour in Iceland

One of my favorite parts about Iceland is driving around on the Golden Circle tour. One can go with a tour company for 10.500 Icelandic Krona, about $82 USD per person, or rent a car and go at your own pace. I personally rented a car for the long drive around Southern Iceland.

I recommend starting out early to beat the tour buses, and if it winter it can get dark very early! The first stop for most people on the Golden Circle is þingvellir National Park, the founding site for the Icelandic Parliament. þingvellir is also in a rift valley, where the North American and Eurasian plates are slowing pulling apart from each other a few centimeters a year! I took a few pictures from a distance, as it was rainy and very cold out. The average driving time from Reykjavik to þingvellir is about thirty-five minutes.

The next stop on the Golden Circle tour is to Geysir. Geysir has a couple of active geysers around the area. The Great Geysir rarely erupts much anymore, maybe about three times a day with no predictability. A little farther up the road there is another geyser named Strokkur. Strokkur is a much smaller geyser, but it erupts very predicatively every eight to ten minutes with heights between fifteen to twenty meters on average. The average driving time between þingvellir to Geysir is about fifty minutes.

A little father up the road is a huge waterfall called Gulfoss. Gullfoss is a huge waterfall with a three-step “staircase” down. Gullfoss almost disappeared from existence because some foreign investors wanted to dam up the falls for a hydroelectric plant. The story goes that Sigríður Tómasdóttir saved the falls by threatening to throw herself into the falls. The average drive from Geysir to Gullfoss is about ten minutes.

Some people like to continue their drive around Southern Iceland by heading south to Selfoss and driving back to Reykjavik on the ring road. I personally drove back the same route I came, since it was a shorter drive back to Reykjavik. I highly recommend the Golden Circle drive while visiting Iceland!

Something better than the Blue Lagoon while in Iceland?

During my family trip to Iceland, I really wanted to see the Blue Lagoon again. I went there on my previous two trips to Iceland and loved every pricey second of it. After further research, I found out that they do not allow children under the age of two in, as well as children under eight have to wear inflatable armbands. As my child was under two, we could not experience the Blue Lagoon together as a family. What could we do?

As I was on the side of the road in Gullfoss debating whether to still go to the Blue Lagoon or call it a day, I found out about the local swimming pools in the Reykjavik area. One of the more popular ones that was a couple of blocks away from our Airbnb was Laugardalslaug.

Laugardalslaug is a local swimming pool in Reykjavik that also uses geothermal waters. One of the biggest differences one would see right away is the entrance prices. A ticket to the Blue Lagoon is €40, which at this time is about 5,654ISK. The entrance price to Laugardalslaug is only 600ISK, about €4.24 or $4.59! Sure, the local swimming pool doesn’t have the bells and whistles or silica mud, but to hop in some warm water you can’t beat the price! Another good selling point for us was that there was no age restrictions for Laugardalslaug, very good for families with kids of all ages.

Laugardalslaug does not allow photography once you enter the locker rooms and in the swimming area. Once you enter and pay your fees, which include swimsuit or towel rentals, you come up to an area where you take off your shoes and leave them on a rack before you enter the locker room. In Iceland, it is always proper to shower off before and after you hop in the water completely nude. If you think you can try to slip past without showering, good luck, there is an employee staffed in the showers to make sure everyone does in fact shower off.

When you finally pass the showers and get your swimwear on, Laugardalslaug is an amazing place. There are 5 different “hot pots” with water heated to different temperatures, an Olympic sized swimming pool, a children’s pool, and another pool with a huge water slide! We spent most of our time in the children’s pool with my daughter and she had a blast! I did split off for a bit to check out the hot pots. The coolest one starts out at 36 degrees Celsius, then increases to 38, 40, 42, topping out at a hot 44 degrees Celsius! The pots are very small lining up along the Olympic sized swimming pool.

If I were to go back to Iceland or heard about a friend going to Iceland soon, I would highly recommend Laugardalslaug over the Blue Lagoon if they had to go to only one place. Laugardalslaug is full of locals and it is easy to be a part of the Icelandic culture at a local swimming hole than a big and pricey tourist destination. More information and hours can be found here:

First Impression on First Time with Airbnb

As I am flying back home from Iceland, I am looking back on my first experience with Airbnb. Iceland is a pretty small country as far as tourism infrastructure goes. They are currently building at a rapid pace, but it is so hard to keep up with an 8.3% increase year after year in tourists.

As a traveller, I have very certain and peticular tastes when it comes to certain things. I am very picky about trying to stay in US chain hotels. I am top tier elite in Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood properties. Since there is none of these chains in Iceland (Marriott just started to build a hotel in Reykjavik), I looked at trying to stay at the Hilton Nordica. Those thoughts were quickly smashed as they wanted about $529 per night during our stay. I then remembered that Icelandair has their own chain of hotels! Getting in contact with someone was no small task, as their only number was a direct line long distance to Iceland. After finding an email address to inquire as to if they give out travel industry discounts, I was greeted with an email in the morning stating that they did at 30% off the best rate! This did help bring down their cheapest rate to about $143 a night, a bit pricey for me, but way more doable than at the Hilton.

This is where Airbnb came into play. I have seen the horror stories in the media about it, but I was curious to see what was out there. There are a couple of options to look for either a room in an apartment/house, a whole apartment, or a whole house. I went with looking for a whole apartment or whole house with the option of looking only at places that allowed an instant booking. I quickly found a small studio apartment for rent for, no joke, $50 a night! I thought this was a mistake! Nope! The total was $112 for both nights! Ah, but I got smart! Since I had an account already and was not eligible for a $25 discount since I did not join off a referral, my wife signed up with a referral code and booked it! So now we were paying $87 total for both nights! $43.50 a night! Amazing!

Once we booked the apartment, our host reached out to us and was amazing thru the whole process. She asked us when we were arriving and trying to accommodate us with her departing guests from the day before. The downer part was that the other guests were not leaving til 11am, so we had to stick with the noon check in time, which is rough coming in on a 645am redeye flight! After milling about Reykjavik for a couple of hours and ending up cluelessly paying $55 for breakfast (dang exchange rates!), we finally showed up at the apartment. The apartment was attached to the house where the host lived, but had a separate entrance and no connection to the main house. The apartment was very small, and had no TV, but did have a full kitchen which we used a lot due to the prices of eating out in Iceland. The host knew that we had an infant with us too. She also has a child about the same age as her, so she provided a baby crib, and some toys for her to play with which I thought was a very nice touch. Free WiFi was provided by the host too, so there was a way to kill time at the apartment and have “background noise”.

All in all, we had a great time and the apartment was as advertised and expected! If you want to give Airbnb a try, use my coupon code! You get $25, I get $25!

Until next time…..