Our day-long hiking trip from the day before, though enjoyable, had left us a little bit sore. Strangely enough, it actually pleased us because we knew it would make what we were to spend the day doing even better.
Iceland is renowned for its geothermal power and so many resorts and spas using this renewable energy have popped up over the years. Even if our trip had for goal to make us see a different side of the country than its commercial one, we couldn’t resist the urge to get pampered for a day.
We made our way to the side of the road and started walking in the direction of the shuttle we would be taking to the Blue Lagoon. We it would be better if we didn’t entirely rely on hitchhiking for this little trip and it seemed we were right. We ended up walking there, but after two days of hiking, we were becoming experts! We finally arrived to the free shuttle that was to lead us to our well-earned day of relaxing.
Upon our arrival, we were taken aback by the technology used in the establishment. We were given magnetic bracelets that would serve both as an access ticket and a key to the lockers in which we stored our belongings. After showering like needed before entering the lagoon’s waters, we met back and let the heat untangle our muscles.
It was a day of true relaxing as we emptied our minds, covered our faces in white mud and learned about the story of the lagoon and its many properties. Once again, we had to rip ourselves from another Icelandic wonder and regain Grindavik, but, before doing so, found our way to the rooftops where an outstanding view waited for us.
At last, we took the shuttle back to where we came from and walked along the road. We were still under the Blue Lagoon’s spell when a car pulled up and we were offered a ride. It wouldn’t bring us directly to the city, but was close enough that it spared us some time.
That night, we went to sleep still seeing the blue waters of the lagoon and feeling their warmth prickling on our skins.
Iceland had a way of surprising us, making even a city gal like me enjoy the country. The day before’s expedition had transformed us into hiking adherents and so we were ready for the day’s challenge: a day entirely lived in the wild.
We went on another hiking trip, this time to þjófagjá, a piece of land where greenery and stone live within each other. Walking on among all these rocks gave the impression of being an astronaut discovering a new planet.
Most of the day was spent in silence, our words getting lost in the wind and the sound of our steps. The spell that had been cast on us and that had taken our breaths away all day long was finally broken when we arrived to our camping site. There we finalized our day, our backs only a few layers of cloth from the earth we had roamed.
As it was our last day in Hveragerdi, we wanted to make the most of a place we only saw the indoors of. In order to do that, we needed to get out of the city and into the wilderness.
Luckily, many hiking trails are located near Hveragerdi and it was easy for us to find one that would give us the chance to explore the region and still leave us time for our afternoon activity.
We put on our hiking gear (that was actually just sportswear) and made our way to the starting point of the hiking trail that would lead us in the Reykjadalur valley, commonly known as the Steam Valley.
We spent half the day walking, but in scenery like the one that unraveled before us, we didn’t feel any exertion. The green hills and continuous puffs of vaporous water urged us on until we arrived at the end of the trail and turned around, going back the way we came. Taking the same path could have been redundant in other circumstances, but in our case, it only gave us the possibility to look for things we could have missed on our first time traveling the hiking trail.
After going back to the city, filling up our stomachs and grabbing the requisites for a swim, we headed to the Sundlaugin Laugaskardi thermal pool. There, we relinquished to the joys of naturally heated waters and relaxed our muscles that would have otherwise been sore the next day.
Two days earlier, we never would have thought it so difficult to leave Thingvellir national park, but in the course of a few days, nature’s peaceful treasures had stolen a piece of our hearts. We still needed to leave if we wanted to follow our plan and seeing how our two first destinations had made such a strong impression on us, we simply knew moving on to the next city would enrich our experience and give us the chance to forge other incredible memories.
Unfortunately, our positive energy was a little stained when our luck ran out. We had planned on hitchhiking to Hveragerdi, the next stop of our journey, but it was as if the grey weather had kept everyone off the road.
After what seemed like an eternity of waiting with our vision obstructed by the light drizzle that had taken place, headlights came our way and finally slowed down. The driver told us he could only take us so far, but we didn’t mind.
Our enthusiasm was back!
We were dropped a few kilometers away from the city, but, this time, didn’t have to wait so long. Still, we had lost an entire half of the day and had to settle for an activity that wouldn’t need too much effort; hitchhiking can be quite tiresome.
With this in mind, we decided to go see Quake 2008, an exposition relating the story of the 2008 double earthquake that hit Iceland. With magnitudes of 5.9 Mw and 5.8 Mw, the seism affected Hveragerdi like no other.
After learning about the reasons that caused the earthquake and the repercussions it had on the city and its residents, we grabbed something to eat before finding our way to our home for the night and enjoy a well-deserved rest.
Our second day at Thingvellir national park was one of wandering and wonder. We spent the entire day discovering new corners of the park, each one overflowing with nature at its purest state. We were left in awe as the city we had loved had to make space in our hearts for the outdoors.
Just like our two first days in Reykjavik, the only thing that stopped us was our hunger; Iceland was making us forget about our basic needs.
It’s only when the skies started to darken that we reluctantly moved back to our camping site.
Two days in and we had already fallen in love with Iceland’s capital. Unfortunately, we had to move on to our second destination. We weren’t feeling disappointment, if only sadness to leave behind us such a wonderful city. Our sorry feelings were soon smothered by the knowledge that we would be coming back and by the desire to see more of country which had so nicely welcomed us.
We said our thanks and goodbyes to the family with which we had stayed and started walking out of the city. We knew that what we were planning to do would have a greater chance of working if we made our way further down the road and so we did.
None of us had ever hitchhiked before, but we had looked it up and knew we were in one of the best countries to do it. We found ourselves at the side of the Ring Road and waited.
Call it beginner’s luck, cosmic alignment or what you want, but got picked up 10 minutes later by another group of travelers who had rented a car and who were heading to Thingvellir too.
On our way there, we discussed about what we were to do on our trip and we learned that we had stumbled across a two car party of friends who once had hitchhiked around Iceland. At the time, they had been like us, kids counting their money, trying to make the most of their youth. Now, they were back making new memories, helping people like they had been helped along the way.
Finally, we arrived to our destination, thanked the ones that had acted as our mentors for the length of a car drive and made our way to the visitor center. There, we familiarized ourselves with the park we were about to enter. The interactive screens taught us more about the UNESCO World Heritage site that had sheltered the oldest existing parliament in the world.
We then made our way to the Thingvellir church and spent the rest the day in its peaceful surroundings. As it closed, we walked to an observation area nearby and took in the majestic view of green grass melding with water so clear it reflected the sky.
As dusk drew by, we moved to the camping site we would be staying at, glad to be able to sleep in a natural wonder.
Having discovered downtown Reykjavik the day before, we decided to visit a more historic side of the city. Built between 1913 and 1917, the Reykjavik old harbor reflects on the history of Iceland all the while evaluating with it. As we arrived on the site, we were struck by how alive something called old was. The country’s biggest construction to this day was swarming with people and the vivid colours that echoed to the ones we had seen the day before made it hard to believe made it hard to believe that we were looking at something made over a century ago.
Locals went on with their routine as we, and other curious tourists, watched. Boats were brought to or left the shore, shops welcomed customers and we started walking around. We stopped many times to either look at what the sea or at Mount Esja located beyond it.
The port’s energy was invigorating without being overbearing and it kept us going until we had no choice, but to stop and eat. It seemed to have started to become a habit for us to forget time as we lost ourselves in Reykjavik’s beauty.
Our appetite once more appeased, we made our way to the Reykjavik Museum of Photography hoping to learn more about the country. The pictures exposed in this museum have been regrouped in a free exposition in order to retrace Iceland’s history and give those interested the chance to peek at the past. We were, so we did. We immersed ourselves in the lives of others, experiencing life from 1870 to 2002.
Believe it or not, transcending eras can make one very hungry and so we left, taking with us a piece of Icelandic time.
After getting over the jet lag that had consumed us upon our arrival, we decided to take our first day slow and get to know the capital a little bit. Our bellies filled thanks to the granola bars we had packed in our backpacks before going on the plane, we stepped out. We didn’t really have a plan, except for the one according to which we would go with the flow. We started walking in the direction of Reykjavik’s most famous church: Hallgrimskirkja. We weren’t planning on going inside it and make use of the panoramic view it had to offer yet, we just knew it would be a good place to start since it’s located in the center of the city. After admiring it, we started our stroll through the streets. We were amazed by the diversity of the city’s color scheme. Houses, shops and (especially) restaurants bore unusual colours giving the architecturally mundane buildings a distinctive particularity.
Colours in Reykjavik
Bravó in Reykjavik
Soon enough, we came across a wall that, not only was painted, but, exposed a work of art. We had finally found our day’s activity; we were
going to turn ourselves into street art hunters. In a place like Reykjavik, we had one of the easiest prays. In fact, it was so effortless and captivating
that we came back to our senses only when our stomachs made themselves heard. We had walked all over the place and now found ourselves stranded on some street corner the name of which none of us could pronounce. We started asking around in the hope of finding someone who spoke English.
Fortunately, the sweetest little couple heard us and came to our rescue. They were about to ask us if were new, but I guess our sheepish smiles made them realize it was our first time in town and they offered to show us someplace within our travelers’ budget to grab a bite. We spent the rest of the day with our new friends discovering the city until it was time for us to go our separate ways. As a parting gift, they gave a us a map of the city that contained their emails as well as a tip to always find our way back: look for Hallgrimskirkja, the city’s landmark that could be seen almost anywhere in it.