Fire & Ice! Iceland is the land of contrasts.

Iceland is like a different planet: the black rocks, the hot springs and the glaciers. We wanted to see whales and the Aurora Borealis – but we saw neither! Still it was one of the best travels ever. Here are the top sites for a small round trip.

We stayed for a week in Reykjavik  and drove around on day trips. This was fine as long you only aim for the Golden Circle. Next time I will go further away from the capital.

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Cool Reykjavik!

We hired a car for the entire holiday. It wasn’t that expensive. I am so glad we opted for a for 4 wheel drive – the road are not good! We also had a gps, but we stille got lost. But you can easily drive from Reykjavik to the most important sites in the so called Golden Circle.

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Thingvellir national park is where the parliament or “Thing” met from year 930 to 1798! It’s a UNESCO site and a part of the Golden Circle of must-sees in Iceland. It is also the visible site of the mid-Atlantic Ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. They are pulling away from each other so the rift in the valley is becoming larger by the year!.

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Thingvellir National Park

 

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The view from the top of Almannagja, where the visitor center is located.

Another part of the Golden Circle is the highly active Geysir Hot Spring Area with boiling mud pits and exploding geysers. The lively Strokkur spouts water 30 metres (100 ft) into the air every few minutes.Old Geysir is not so active any more, but has named all other hot springs in the world.

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It is like you look straight into the center of the earth.

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Strokkur geyser

Iceland is a the least populated country in Europe, so there is plenty of space – especially off season. We went in February and it rained, was foggy and the sky was constantly grey. But somehow this just added to the mysterious atmospehere of the island. But be dressed for rapid weather changes.

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Eyjafjallajokull (the one wih the eruption)

We drove several hours to find the glacier close to Eyjafjallajokul, but we never did and in the end we had to give up because of time and road conditions. Apparently, we drove around the volcano and the glacier is right by the road, we later discovered. Instead, we did see this nice waterfall Seljalandsfoss which you can walk behind. It is one of the highest waterfalls with 63 meters.

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Seljalandsfoss

In Reykjavik we stayed in Centerhotel Arnarhvoll. It was very good location and a small hot spring pool in the basement, but unfortunately they made a booking mistake, so we spent the first night somewhere else on the main street, and it was very noisy!

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Is it a LEGO church or a spaceship? It is Hallgrimskirkja!

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Statue of Leif Eiriksson who “discovered” Vinland also known as USA.

There is good food in Reykjvaik. The first night we ate at Dill at the Nordic House, It is really good and uses anly Nordic ingredients. Again we were the only ones with a child. Also beacuse of the change with out hotel we didn’t have time to shower or change so we definitely stood out amung the few tables. Another great place was Grillmarkadurinn which served whale (not an endangered one!). It looks a little brown, but it was really good.

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Whale and puffin

Somehow we manage to plan museum trips on the one day they were all closed- which of course heartbreaking for a museumlover like me.

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Reykjavik from the church tower

The influence of the viking age can still be seen in the traditional turf houses and the Icelandic horse, which was brought here by the vikings. Read The Sagas for great stories about love, war and Ragnar Lodbrok.

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A traditional turf house

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The Icelandic horse

We went to many hot spring spots. The common swimming house in Reykjavik is quite fantastic with everyday Icelanders coming after work or young people for some couple time. We also went to a very small but so colol place Laugarvatn, and there was just us in the hot pools and in the sauna looking out on a lake. But of course the most famous one is Blue Lagoon and for good reason.

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Just outside the fantastic Blue Lagoon.

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The Icelandic people believe in trolls. No wonder with this nature.

The Golden Circle also contains the water fall Gullfoss. It was very dificult to see how tall it actually is beacuse all the ice was just melting and therefore there was an enormous amount of water running down. On a sunny day, the water takes on a golden-brown colour. This is due to the fact that it’s glacial water and therefore carries lots of sediments that glacial ice has carved off the earth throughout the years.

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Gullfoss -32 meter high.

But just driving around in the surreal landscape is enough reason to go back!

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No wonder movies are shot here

Whats you favorite place in iceland?