Iceland – Day 2

The city of Reykjavik was to be the main area for exploration with options to get to some of the areas around the city were out initial plan for the day, but it became evident that the city was the only option as the day dawned on us. It was a cold, gray, rainy day with 35-40 mph winds making indoor spaces as the only option. In places, the wind seemed far worse than the posted 35-40 mph because of the tunnel effect. Some would call this simply a ‘museum day’ 😉

Perlan Museum

It is a beautiful museum with a glass dome housing a revolving restaurant at the top floor – if one sits around long enough one get a 360 view of the city. The exhibits essentially relate to the formation of the island, the glaciers or rather the disappearing glaciers, the volcanoes and of course the aurora or the northern lights. While it appears similar to many other natural history museums around the world, the unique nature of the country in terms of their landscape, volcanoes, glaciers and aurora are highlighted in their exhibits and shows.

The show on the aurora in their i-max like theater is not only educational in terms of understanding the science behind the aurora, one gets to see the full grandeur of the aurora that one may or may not get to see in person; an interesting side note is that there are tours for watching the aurora where a bus drives the tourists to numerous places where aurora can be seen without any interference!! As the narrator emphasized, it is a natural event and hence without clear skies and the solar flares not cooperating it is pretty much not possible to see the aurora as one pleased!

The movie on the volcanoes was equally impressive, where they showed a recent eruption with unbelievable closeups. And there were hundreds of people standing and watching the hot lava flow from probably 10-15 feet away; it sort of reminded the videos from Hawaii (Big Island) a few years ago, where the lava was flowing thru a neighborhood and burning up the houses on the path!

They also had an indoor ice cave we could walk thru to experience the -15C environment (volunteer to freeze in other words :-))

Hallgrimskirkja church

Our next stop was to view the insides of the church and also get to the top of the tower to get a 360 view of the city and surrounds. The church sits at the top of a hill and it was here where we felt the full impact of the winds; fully grown adults were being pushed around by the wind like rag dolls.

The insides of the church was unique in its design in such a way that one would think it was made of ice. The absence of stain glass windows, paintings and ornamentation of any kind which is typical of most churches, gave it an appearance of the church being made of ice. Unfortunately for us, the elevator that takes visitors to the top of the church where one can get a view of the city had broken down and so could not get that view; in a way it may been a blessing in disguise because the winds at that height would have even stronger.

Grotta Light House

The Grotta lighthouse is situated at the western edge of the city and that was our next stop. The current lighthouse was built in 1947 replacing the original one that was built in 1897. It is in a vast open area that is surrounded by black sand and a rugged coastline, and is a refuge for birds.

Even as we approached the parking area for the lighthouse we realized that it was going to be ‘see from a distance’ mode of looking at it. The combo of the choppy sea waters close by, the heavy wind and a half mile or more walk to the lighthouse, simply did not seem an option at all. While we did see a couple of brave souls making the trip to the light house, we saw a bunch of cars come in, turn around and leave without even bothering to stop! And it is also here that I experienced what the winds could do; opening and closing the car required using a lot strength and quite an unforgettable one too, which happened over and over again.


Harpa is clearly a striking landmark in the city and visible from many a place. My initial impression was that this was the place for music concerts and opera, but it turns out that it is used many other purposes too. In addition being the venue of concerts and operas, it is also a conference center and a public place. With the concert hall closed for a private event, we were limited to viewing the insides of the building which had an interesting feature that much of the walls were simply plain concrete and the day light pouring into the building thru the glass structures lining the outer walls of the building.

The shore line has a ‘Sculpture and Shore Walk’ which is lined with numerous sculpture which we could see from our room/hotel. Sadly with the rain and wind, that was a walk which could not take and missed viewing the touted sculptures.

From our room, we had a full view of the Hofra house which is of historical significance for various reasons, the well known one being the meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev when they signed the peace agreement ending the cold war. It is also supposed to have a piece of the Berlin wall.

Some pictures from our hotel:

Visiting Iceland

Visiting Iceland

Iceland has been a place that we have wanted to visit for quite a while. One important motive was the potential to see the Aurora or the Northern Lights and then of course the unique landscape and the natural beauty that this country has. Since the country is sparsely populated (373,000 as per a recent count), one needs to plan the trips carefully and choose between going to the popular destinations and more adventurous trek around the country. And then you have the weather to deal with – summers can have daylight pretty much all the time and winters can be no daylight at all. Added to that is the constantly changing weather in terms of rain, snow, wind and of course sun, all of which could potentially experienced within a 2 hour period.

We made the trip in the early part of October with the plan to spend 5 days on the island going around the south western part of the country which also happens to be the popular among the tourists and hopefully get to see the Aurora if we were lucky. We also decided that we would rent a car and drive around to see the places of our choice and at the pace we wanted.

Day 1

On landing at the Keflavik airport, we went thru the immigration which was a breeze, collected our bags, had a cup of coffee at the airport, got to the rental car place and were on the road within an hour of landing. The plan was to see a bunch of attractions south of the airport and then head to Reykjavik where we would be staying for a couple of nights.

It was quite overcast with rain in the forecast, temperatures around 40F and a strong wind. We started out with our fingers crossed on how the weather would hold out for the day. As soon as we got on to the road, we found the landscape to quite unique in that everything around was lava rock in various shapes and sizes, very little vegetation and it was only a day or two later that we saw any trees!

The first stop was the ‘Bridge Between Continents’, which is seriously advertised spot for viewing the continental divide or where the North American plates and the Eurasian plates meet or grind against each other depending on how you look at it.

Before jumping into what we saw there, Iceland happens to belong both the North American and Eurasian plates with the divide running across the country in rather a dramatic fashion. And for that reason there are volcanoes scattered all around and the landscape looks very different from any other place one would have seen other than the Big Island in Hawaii. And for this reason, the island grows a couple of centimeters every year, but loses that anyway because of erosion. Here is a picture of the plates running thru the island.

The area we were at was a trench of sorts between the two plates and with a bridge that was to give a feeling that one would be crossing from one plate to another.

The next stop was the ‘Reykjanes Lighthouse’ located at the tip of the south western part of the island. Sitting a top a hill, it is a cute light house built in 1908 having replaced the previous one that was destroyed by an earthquake. We were unable to go up the lighthouse which we would have loved to. From the foot of the lighthouse, once can see the ocean with some breathtaking rock formations on one side, the hot springs on the other side and a power plant generating electricity from the geothermal energy (we saw quite a few power plants around the island based on geothermal energy).

The name to fame for the Gunnuhver Hot Springs is the fact there is a power plant near by, but it also happens that there was a family who lived right next to hot springs in the first half of last century, using the heat and the hot water from it for pretty much all their needs. The area stank of sulpher, but I guess the need for heat overcomes these inconveniences – haha.

The next stop was the ‘Brimketill lava rock pool’, supposed to be famous for its seawater filled bathtub of sorts. The shoreline full of rocks, cliffs and with giant waves pounding the rocks was a sight to see, but the bathtub was a letdown; it was simply an area up on the rocks that looked like a bath tub and filled up with the seawater from the waves.

Blue Lagoon was the next stop; For some, the name may conjure up the memories of the movie with this name from the 80s, but there is no connection between the two at all. It is a geothermal spa atop a lava field with hot sea water fed from the underground reservoirs.

Till we reached this place, we may have seen dozen people at the most in the spots we were at and on arriving here, we saw a hue parking lot with dozens of buses, hundreds of cars and of course people. The presence of tourists in Iceland was in full view! As you go into the facility, you see the lava fields fields filled with the blue water and white crusted edges of the ponds in various shapes and sizes, which are outside the main pool. The main pool continuously fed by the underground springs is pretty large accommodating hundreds of people at a time. The water (sea water to be precise) is between 32-38C feels very soothing even though the outside temperature is around 3-4C.

While Blue Lagoon is well known and perhaps the largest of them, there are hot springs all around the island; If you are visiting Iceland, make sure that you do get into one of the hot springs.

We then headed into the city of Reykjavik and checked into FossHotel. Our room on the 12th floor had a beautiful view of the city and the mountains to the north across the waters of the Greenland Sea. The crazy weather patterns were most visible from this vantage spot in that as I looked around, I saw sunshine on one side, low hanging clouds in another and rains farther out and the scenery was changing by the minute!

We knew the next day was going to be rainy, colder and windy – but we had no idea the kind of weather that we would be having the next day!!