The Volcano, the Vikings, and the Sea: Our last stops along the Reykjanes Peninsula #Iceland #travel

After leaving the Seltun Geothermal Field, we headed up the road to visit the Fagradalsfjall’s 2021 Eruption site. Had we know we would have had more time to spare, we would likely have made our trip into more of a hike. Instead, we parked at the lot below the volcano’s base, scanned the QR code to pay, and headed out to explore the still-steaming lava field.

Even at the base of the lava field, the landscape is unstable and there are signs warning visitors not to step on the lava least they fall through or get burned. You can see areas where the surface has caved in and there are still mini steam vents.

You can see the wisps of steam rising from the cooling lava in this video.


It’s worth a trip to the site of the eruption if you are exploring the peninsula. According to the travel guides, it’s at least a 45 minute hike to get a good view of the volcano, but clearly you could spend a good half-day here as there are tours offering 5-hour excursions. We didn’t want to sacrifice too much time, so we spent about a half-hour walking around its base and then followed the dragon line to the ocean.

The head of the dragon over-looks the ocean. There are warnings at its base not to walk along its neck, but people still do.

The coast along the peninsula is perhaps not as stunning as the more famous areas along the South Coast, but still quite beautiful. Please click through the slide show to see some of the views we experienced during our stop.

It was rather blustery and chilly during out visit to see the ocean, but we did spend some time walking around and taking it the splendor of the rugged rocks where seabirds make their nests, and watched the wave’s relentless massage of the land.

We knew the Viking World Museum would be closing soon after we finished our visit at the coast, so we made it our last stop before we turned in our car. We timed it just in time for a tour-bus, though. Because of this, we spent just as much time outside the museum as we did inside, but building sits nearby the harbor, offering beautiful views.

The museum itself is not large, most of its space is taken up by the viking ship, which is its main attraction. A half-hour is sufficient to walk through it, more time is worthwhile if you are a viking fan and want to read more about the history of the culture and the artifacts that are housed in the museum. There are some turf houses outside the museum, but their doors are locked. Only about a mile from the airport, the Viking World Museum is a logical stop before you depart from the Land of Fire and Ice. As it was, we had ample time to spare, and found ourselves wishing we had perhaps spent a little more time at the volcano.

Driving the Reykjanes Peninsula to Kleifarvatn Lake and the Seltun Geothermal Field #Iceland #travel

Since we had a late flight home, my husband and I decided to make the most out of our last day in Iceland by driving around the Reykjanes Peninsula, where Keflavik Airport is located. The drive is lovely, with the exception of the sulfur smell that pervades the air as you drive. At times it can be quite over-whelming. The peninsula is filled with geothermal activity and hosts the famous Blue Lagoon, the geothermal wastewater container turned major tourist attraction/spa.

We opted not to join the throngs of tourists at this man-made wonder, and instead we made our way south down Rt 42 from Reykjavik. It’s not a large peninsula, and it doesn’t take long to reach the first stop worth pulling over, Kleifarvatn Lake.

Kleifarvatn Lake is bordered by black sands and stunning volcanic hills.

The lake is stunning, and well-worth pulling over to take in its beauty, and capture a few memories in photographs. Although there is no formal road leading down to the water, there are cars that ignore the signs and drive down to the water’s edge. We pulled over with other tourists in one of the lots over-looking the lake to take our photos and selfie.

The contrasting colors and contours of the landscape make for a breath-taking spot.

Although our stay beside the lake was brief, we were glad we did not miss the splendor of this gem inside the peninsula.

Our selfie at the lake

After taking photographs from different angles to capture the lake’s beauty, we headed back down Rt 42 towards the Seltún geothermal field.

The Seltún Geothermal Field

The smell of sulfur greets you before you pull up to the parking lot at the Seltún Geothermal Field. The odor of the landscape, along with its colors and textures, gives you the feel that you are somewhere other than Earth.

The bubbling red-gray of the barren hillside of Seltún contrasts with its lush green surroundings.

To be quite honest, I found the area difficult to navigate, not due to the terrain, but because of the over-whelming odor of sulfur. If you are sensitive to the smell, you may want to consider wearing a mask. I found myself covering my nose with the sleeve of my coat as we walked through the smelliest areas. Aside from the odor, though, the area is quite intriguing and, in some ways, beautiful with its steaming pewter-colored steams meandering through red sands.

The other-worldly landscape of Seltún is worth at least a brief pause to take in before you continue your walk.

We followed the paths along the main area of the field up into the hillside, where you you can see some more geothermal vents as well as gorgeous views of the surrounding area. Click through for a glimpse of the rest of our visit to Seltún.

Do take care if you walk up the hillside. The terrain can be quite slippery and steep. We had plenty of its red clay stuck to our shoes afterwards, and saw some visitors cleaning it off theirs in the cool stream that descends from its summit. We opted to clap ours off as best we could before we got back into our car and headed towards our next stop, a still-steaming volcano…

Following the Clouds from a Waterfall to a Rapidly Retreating Glacier #iceland #Sólheimajökull #climatechange

It was fitting to have the clouds linger over the landscape as we left Skogafoss and headed further down the south coast of Iceland to visit the Sólheimajökull glacier. Before you are able to get a good view of the glacier and its beauty, you are greeted with a small post indicating how much the glacier has melted in a short period of time. The glacier retreats the size of an olympic swimming pool each year. It is a sobering thought to say the least as one contemplates our intrusion on the land and how much we have altered the fate of all life on Earth.

The view of Sólheimajökull from nearby the parking lot

I couldn’t help but think about how much our collective feet have pressed against time as I walked the landscape of black lava stone to get a glimpse of what remains of Sólheimajökull. I was yet another intruder from afar, here to selfishly take in the wild beauty of a land that is poignantly feeling the effects of climate change.

The ever-expanding base beneath Sólheimajökull Glacier is stunning and bleak.

My attempts to capture a bit of the wild beauty of Sólheimajökull as a testament of all that could be lost without a concerted global effort to change our selfish ways, served to remind me of my own actions. Like many countries, Iceland is making concerted efforts to reduce and sequester carbon emissions. Although we did not have the option of renting an electric car when we reserved our very-efficient econobox, we were impressed with the number of electric vehicles we saw on the road, as well as how accessible it is to walk and bike in the more densely populated areas. And, although Iceland does not, by nature, have an abundance of trees, more and more are being planted to the government and individuals.

The area around the glacier is a good example of Iceland’s harsh, rocky landscape, but there are places that are much more amenable to trees.

When we visit these fragile landscapes we can take in their beauty, but also their vulnerability. We can be reminded of our own impact, our collective impact, and contemplate the ways we can move towards further change to preserve and protect our planet and its landscape.

The ever-increasing length of the walk to the glacier allows for contemplation. The edge of its ice sheet used to reach the parking lot…

I couldn’t help but wonder about our future and what sort of landscape the next generations of children will be greeted with as I approached the glacier cap and began to take in its still mighty expanse and beauty.

The glacier is covered with volcanic dust, and sits atop an active volcano. The black dust against the blue ice enhances the melancholic feel of the place. As with all sites that welcome tourists in Iceland, one is advised to take caution and obey the signs. Glacier are a place to see changes in real-time, and as we approached the base of the Sólheimajökull we could see its drips of melting ice.

As we were not equipped to hike the glacier, we just walked a short distance on the ice. Here you could see its steady drip of water.

The feeling of reverence and guilt pervades your thoughts as you watch Sólheimajökull’s ice give way to water filling its lagoon.

The Icebergs in Sólheimajökull’s lagoon are not very large, and keep getting smaller.

Please click through the short slide show of additional photos to get some more glimpses of Sólheimajökull’s fragile beauty.

Seljalandsfoss: Our First Stop Along the South Coast of Iceland #Seljalandsfoss #Iceland #travel

The south coast of Iceland is famous for its waterfalls, volcanos, glaciers, and black sand beaches. We didn’t quite make it as far as Vík to see the black sand and rocks of the south coast, but we still filled a day’s worth of wonders.

I found the hills along the south coast to be particularly animated

As we drove along highway 1, Iceland’s famous Ring Road, towards our first stop, the clouds began to part to make way to the blue beyond and the glorious sun that had been mostly missing from the previous day. The drive from Reykjavík to Seljalandfoss, our first outdoor destination, is nearly two hours. We decided to break it up with a quick stop at the LAVA Centre in Hvolsvollur.

The LAVA museum is a bit pricey, but offers some fun and impressive interactive exhibits that demonstrate the awesome power of Iceland’s volcanic landscape. There’s a twenty minute movie that runs all day, and is worth watching to see close-up views of the volcanos erupting. I found the devastating effects on the livestock to be a bit depressing, but you do get a real-life feel of what it means to live in the Land of Fire and Ice.

It was uplifting to see the blue skies emerge as we drove towards Seljalandsfoss and took in the glorious views.

After a somewhat sobering visit to the museum, we headed back out on our path towards our first waterfall of the day. Seljandsfoss is a very popular spot for tourists, but like most of the other attractions in Iceland, one can find parking without a problem. There is almost always a small fee to park, and credit cards are the method of choice.

You cannot miss Seljalandsfoss, which is visible from quite a distance on the highway as it falls over the grass covered lava hills that reach towards the ocean.

When we rounded a corner and saw the waterfall in the distance, we knew that our destination was not far away. On a sunny day such as we had, the effect is worth a pause to take it all in, and we stopped for a moment so I could run through the wind and capture a few photographs along the roadside.

Sejalandsfoss is fully aware of her beauty, you cannot help but be drawn into the curve of the hills to take in the full breadth of her wonder.

Sejalandsfoss, like Gullfoss was one of the spots where I wished there had been half the amount of visitors joining us. Everyone wants to capture her magnificence, and it can be a little frustrating if one wishes to take a personal moment of connection. Still, it is glorious to be there, and more than worth slowing down as much as you can to take in its wonder.

The path around the falls allows you to walk behind Seljalandsfoss, which we did. You will, though, get wet.

Although it was sunny and becoming quite warm by Iceland’s standards, we donned our raincoats, and I slipped on my rain pants, before we exited the car. Seljalandsfoss is one Iceland’s waterfalls that allows visitors to walk around its perimeter. The path can be slippery and wet, and depending on the wind, you’ll get a good spray of her waters at some point along the way.

Behind the falls

If you are prepared for the adventure, I recommend walking the circumference of the falls. We got wet, but I found it to be a holy experience, as though being baptized by Mother Nature as you receive the never-ceasing spray of Seljalandsfoss.

The Song of Seljalandsfoss

It also felt rather nice to have the cool waters of the falls on our faces as we made our way back into the sun.

After receiving the spray from the falls

The chilly waters of Seljalandsfoss come from the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, which pours down water along the hillside. It’s well worth a longer visit at this site to walk along the paths to visit some of the lesser falls, which we took some time to do.


Leaving Seljalandsfoss, we made our way down the trail to visit her sisters.

We started stripping off layers as we walked along the sun-filled path below the hills to view the other falls.

Views along the path to Gljufrabui

If you venture far enough along the path, you will reach Gljufrabui. Although the waterfall is not as large or showy as Seljalandsfoss, it holds its own magic. Hidden inside a canyon, Gljufrabui only partially viewable from the path. One must brave the stream that it flows into, as well as the slippery rocks and the waterfall’s generous spray, to get a close-up. Dave stayed behind on the path, but I could not resist the urge to enter the cave.

Although the “selfie rock” was constantly being occupied by other visitors, I managed to get some decent shots of Gljufrabui devoid of tourists.

It was not easy to say goodbye to the falls here, but even the sun decided to depart as we made our way back to our car to venture towards our next destination. And, somehow, the clouds were just right for where we would next be.

One last look at Seljalandsfoss as the clouds started to roll back in

Next stop, Skógafoss…

Kerið Crater: Wrapping Up Our Golden Circle Adventure #keridcrater #goldencircle #iceland #travel

We departed Gullfoss with the intention of stopping at two more attractions before calling it a (full) day. At some point, after purchasing Rick Steve’s Iceland guide a few years ago, I had circled Selfoss on the map of the Golden Circle. Instead of reading the description while deciding what places we would stop at during our trip, I had become convinced it must be another waterfall because it ended in “foss.” Turns out there’s a river, but no falls, at Selfoss. It is, though, a nice place to stop for a meal, which we did. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

On the route to the crater

The route from Gullfoss to the crater offers the option of veering off-course a bit to visit a hot spring or or thermal pool, but we had decided to not spend out limited time soaking in the waters of Iceland. Instead, we made our way to the Kerið volcanic crater in the town of Grímsnes.

Kerið volcanic crater as viewed from the upper paths

As with many of the sites you can visit in Iceland, there are multiple paths to choose from to view the main attractions. The fee for visiting Kerið is collected at a small kiosk where you receive a colorful brochure with a description of the crater and some of its history. From the kiosk, we followed the trail that led above the crater.

The water in the crater looks unnatural in its blue-hue, and its worldly aura is enhanced by the red volcanic dust of the surrounding hillside patched with moss and grass.

The crater does not require a long visit, but the climb is steep and fatigue was setting in by then for us. We walked a bit around the top, then headed halfway down before we decided we did not need to walk the lower perimeter. I found myself irked by the tourists throwing stones into its depths and we both decided to call it a day.

A stunningly beautiful pool, the Kerið volcanic crater is well worth a short stop.

Later, I realized my husband and I had neglected to take a selfie together at the crater, which had become our habit at the attractions we stopped at in Iceland, but I had taken one of myself over the crater, then later of Dave when we stopped at Selfoss to see the waterfall have dinner.

A long day, well spent with a tasty meal at the end

Our day around the Golden Circle was long, but full of beauty and awe. It was, indeed, a day to remember, but we still had a lot to see. For our third day in Iceland we made plans to set out along the South Coast.

To be continued…

Gullfoss: The Peak of our Golden Circle Adventure #gullfoss #goldencircle #iceland

After leaving Geysir , we followed the road up a short distance to our next stop: Gullfoss. To say this wonder took our breath away would be an understatement.

The magnificent “Golden Falls” was filled with mist wraiths during our visit, which enhanced its awesome feel, but there were no golden hues from the sun that day.

Gullfoss, like all the major attractions along the Golden Circle route, is a magnet for tourists. There is ample parking nearby the two (upper and lower) viewing areas. We parked in the lower lot and began our misty walk along the trail beside the Hvítá River.

Tourists crowd around the viewing areas overlooking the falls

You hear the falls, and feel their thundering power of the water as it rushes through the river, before you are greeted with their full splendor. The trail is constantly sprayed by the force of the falls, and it is advisable to dress in waterproof clothing and shoes, unless you enjoy getting a good soaking.

Not all parts of the trail are close to the water, but you will still get wet.

Gullfoss was our first encounter with one of Iceland’s waterfalls, and it could not have been more awe-inspiring. Turning the corner and seeing the descent of the falls, I had to pause to catch my breath, not from exertion, but from the sense of wonder that overcame me as I took in magnificence of Gullfoss.

Gullfoss does not require a long visit, but it was one of those places that is hard to leave. One cannot help but contemplate the awesome forces of Nature while there. Neither words nor photographs do justice to Gullfoss, you simply have to experience it for yourself. Take a pause, more than a brief one, if you go, and soak it in.

Thankfully, like many of the natural wonders in Iceland, the government is leaving Gullfoss untouched in its natural state. This is, in part, due an environmentalist who helped prevent a hydroelectric dam from being installed at the falls, and who is depicted on a stone nearby.

Sigríður Tómasdóttir

It was with some reluctance that I made my way back to our car and prepared to set out for our next adventure along the Golden Circle route. Gullfoss, fittingly, is at the apex of the circle, and now we were heading down Rt 35 as we made our way back towards Reyjkjavik. We still had two stops to visit, though. And they, like the ones that preceded them, did not disappoint.

Next up, a volcanic crater with the bluest water imaginable…

Our Golden Circle Journey Part 2: Geysir Geothermal Field #geysir #iceland #goldencircle #travel

After leaving Pingvellir, we made our way to the Geysir Geothermal Field. The area is impossible to miss. As you crest a hill heading north into Geysir, traffic slows down to accommodate the crossing tourists heading from the visitor’s center/cafe and the parking lots into the attraction area. Streams of water bubble out of the ground and pour into the sidewalks. I was surprised to see young children playing in the cooling waters with their unconcerned parents meandering nearby.

On Route to Geysir

There are many signs and ropes to alert visitors of the dangers of getting too near this geothermal hotspot, and plenty of stories can be found about the less-than-careful getting severely burned, and worse. Do take care and respect the boundaries that are marked when you visit geothermal fields. They are volatile places where the Earth clearly wields the wand of power.

The Start of the Geothermal Field Near the Parking Lot

There are several places that send out clouds of steam at Geysir, but only one active geyser big enough to gather the crowd with cameras poised at the ready around its vast circumference. Its name is Strokkur, and it releases a gush of steam every 10 minutes, sending its cloud a good 50 feet into the air.

Zoom out if you want to catch a video of Strokkur standing around its roped perimeter, otherwise you will not capture the full breath of its size.

Along route to Strokkur, you pass Little Geysir and some smaller steamy hot spots. The water here trickles over the paths and it is not a place for sandals, but sturdy shoes.

Like all of the natural attractions we stopped at in Iceland, Geysir offers much more than its main attraction. The area is filled with paths that lead around the geothermal field and up into the surrounding hills. It’s well worth the time spent to explore and get a little hike in. The views are stunning from the hill that climbs above the area, and it’s a great spot to watch Strokkur erupt away from the hovering crowds.

We probably spent an hour exploring the geothermal field and climbing the hill behind it. As you can see, the views are stunning.

If you find yourself hungry, as we did after the climb, there are a couple of options for dining. Both are across the road nearby the parking lot. The Geysir restaurant is connect to a hotel, and although it looked like a lovely option, we chose to purchase soup at the cafe adjoining the gift shop. We both had the wild mushroom, which come with bread and butter. It hit the spot, and after a stop at the restrooms and a perusal of the shop, we were ready to head out towards our next adventure.

Next stop, Gullfoss…

The Golden Circle: Pingvellir Park #Iceland #travel #goldencircle

Pretty much everyone who travels to Iceland to see its natural wonders takes a journey around the “Golden Circle.” At just under 200 miles (300 kilometers), the route begins and ends in Reykjavik as it circles northeast into the interior of Iceland. Along the route, you can view many of the natural wonders the country has to offer, including: waterfalls, geothermal fields and hot springs, an active geyser, a crater filled with the bluest possible water, and walk along the rift where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are increasingly separating. It’s well worth a day to explore.

Driving into the Golden Circle

We began our second day in Iceland around 10:30am local time. Having stopped at a Bonus market in the capital the day before, we had enough food to get us through lunch. After a breakfast of eggs and rye bagels (to my dismay, the favored flavor of bread products in Iceland appears to be rye), we put together a couple of sandwiches (thankfully on wheat bread), packed them alongside apples and trail-mix, filled our water bottles with sulfur-laced water (I know there’s not supposed to be sulfur in the cold water in Iceland, as it comes from a different source, but we could still smell and taste it), packed up our rain gear, and headed out to our tiny rental car.

Entering Pingvellir Park

It doesn’t get dark in the summer in Iceland, so we knew our only limits to the length of our days were our own internal body clocks. Despite our daughter’s repeated insistence (from back home in New Hampshire) that we witness the midnight sunset, we never quite made it to that hour.

The edge of the Pingvellir park. There are many signs indicating not to walk on the fragile landscape, but alas they are not alway heeded.

We took the clockwise route around the Golden Circle, heading out from the city towards Pingvellir Park. The hour ride to the park is beautiful, as I’m pretty sure all drives are through Iceland. The day offered us a mix of sun, clouds, light rain, and a fair amount of fog on the higher elevations, which only enhanced the other-worldly feel of the landscape. I found myself ever-grateful that I was the passenger in the car, able to peer into the misty mountains to make out the shapes of dragons and other mystical beings. Iceland is a land where one cannot help but believe in magic. It’s my kind-of place where wonder is around every corner.

The view driving away from Pingvellir

Unfortunately, I was too busy losing myself in the landscape to capture the mystical beasts that caught my eye (you may get a glimpse of a dragon on the last day of our journey), so you’ll just have to imagine traveling along their green backs as you ascend into the mist. Then, take a pause for a breath and a small gasp as you make your way down their tails and discover their expanse, note the tiny dots of sheep parading up their wings, and the wrap of their tails around houses that look like they belong in the land of Lilliput.

Inside Pingvellir there are miles of trails

We arrived at Pingvellir close to midday, but easily found a parking space in one of the pay-to-park lots amid the other tourists. Summer in Iceland is busy, but we found the flies that greeted our arrival to the park more bothersome than the crowds. Pingvellir covers many acres, but most people walk along the tectonic rift only as far as the gorge. We carried on quite a bit further to see some of the other natural wonders and views. Click through the slideshow below for sites we saw during our stay at the park.

We probably spent 1.5 hours total in the park, walking the trail that leads down the rift towards the gorge and to the Oxararfoss waterfall, then turning back, meandering through side trails to the gift shop and bathrooms. After purchasing souvenirs of Icelandic chocolate and a deck of rune cards, along with an Icelandic carbonated soda that appeared to be flavored in sulfur instead of elderflower, we made our way to the car to eat our packed lunches.

Pingvellir Park can easily be a day trip in itself, or more, but an hour or two will allow you to see the highlights.

Soon we were on our way to our next stop on the Golden Circle: Geysir.

Stay tuned…

Four Days in the Land of Fire and Ice Part 1: Reykjavik #Iceland #travel

It was our first time traveling without our kids, who are no longer kids, but 17 and 18 yrs. old, for more than a night. They were originally supposed to go with us in April of 2020, but the pandemic hit and plans changed. So, my husband and I used our airline vouchers and took a long weekend in the land of fire and ice to celebrate our 23 yr. wedding anniversary.

And, it was wonderful.

The area surrounding Keflavík airport

Stepping off of the plane in Keflavík feels like stepping into another world. You are greeted by a landscape devoid of trees, but filled with rocks. Black, lava rocks covered in a green-yellow moss that made me think of Dagobah. It is a dreamscape of wonder that never ceases, and gets more alive and intensely surreal the further one travels outside of the city.

“Is that a volcano,” my daughter asked when she saw this photo. The entire island is a network of volcanos, making it nearly impossible to avoid their looming presence.

Life has taken ahold of this volcanic island in a way that makes a person feel like a somewhat foolish intruder. Untamed and wildly unpredictable, it is nature at her rawest form. One misstep and she can swallow you whole or spit you out in a fury of fire.

Well, just about.

Despite having an intense love-affair with the wild beauty of Mother Nature, I don’t think I could embrace her unpredictability in quite the same way as Icelanders seem to.

Even the cats are entirely at ease here, aside from the orange tabby on the right whom I disturbed in the middle of the night from its contented slumber in front of our window.

After driving to our Airbnb on the outskirts of the city, we took a three-hour nap with the intention of making the most out of our brief trip. Reykjavik, as we discovered, is very walkable, and it is quite a joy to ditch the car and don your sneakers to get in your steps for the day.

Highlights from our walk into the city center. The parks are beautifully welcoming and maintained.

Reykjavik is a wonderful city. If wears an aura of welcome without the feeling of overwhelm that often accompanies larger cities. We spent a very fully day walking its streets, popping into shops, taking photos and enjoying its stunning art and delicious food. We even caught the end of a women’s soccer match with the locals.

It was a fully day, well spent. The kabobs at the Sea Baron are pretty much to die for, and we regret not having purchased a container of the seasoning they have for sale on the self beside the counter. If you go, go early. They are a small, no frills restaurant, but their fabulous food makes them quite popular.