Greetings, Fellow Travelers!
BLUF: This four-part AAR covers the journey, destination, and activities of our trip to Iceland. Iceland is full of amazing wonders: waterfalls, geysers, wildlife, and fresh air. Over the past five years, Iceland has become one of the most popular destinations for tourists. In turn, Iceland’s tourism infrastructure has risen to the challenge to accommodate that influx with new hotels, bars, restaurants, and a fantastic airport. I recommend a visit, but more than most places, seasonal differences in airfare, room rates, activities, and crowds prevail. Definitely do your research.
Today’s AAR takes us to Iceland.
Iceland is volcanically and geologically active, and the main reason tourism has boomed over the past years. Despite its name, Iceland sits entirely south of the Arctic Circle, and its climate is heavily-regulated by the warm North Atlantic Current. Even with its subarctic weather, Iceland has distinct seasons and an abundance of flora and fauna.
The most popular tourist activity is the Golden Circle route. This approximately 300 km route hits three of the main geological attractions easily accessible from Reykjavik during half-day tours.
The first stop along the route is the Thingvellir National Park. The park is home to glacier-formed lakes and the visible rift between the North American and European tectonic plates. Tourist can dive the lake, hike along the rift, and view glorious waterfalls and running streams.
The second stop along the route is the Geysir geothermal area. As the name suggests, this geothermal active area is home to both the Geysir and Strokkor geysers. The Strokker geyer is the more reliable of the two and erupts every 6-10 minutes to approximately 50-60 ft. This area is also the most developed with a hotel, restaurants, and gift shops.
The third (and usually last) stop during a half-day tour is the Gullfoss Waterfall. Feed by the southern flow of the Hívíta River, this massive waterfall has viewing platforms both along the canyon edge and from river-level. The water is always cold, so be prepared for icy mist and slippery footpaths.
Rather than make our way directly back to Reykjavik, we opted to drive the full circle and make our way back to KEF. With an early morning flight back to FRA, we chose to stay at the Aurora Airport Hotel, a quick five-minute walk from the terminal building. A very simple hotel with minimal amenities, saving ourselves the very early morning drive on our day of departure was the smart option.
By continuing on the route, we were able to visit the Kerid Crater. This intact caldera formed by a volcanic eruption over 3000 years ago is full of water and lined with red volcanic rock. The crater serves as a very dramatic back drop, and we even saw a young couple having what looked like engagement photos taken along the edge.
As mentioned, the Golden Circle route is immensely popular, so the two-lane road can often experience traffic jams due to tour busses and campers driving slower than the posted speed limit. Luckily, during our Sunday visit along the route, traffic was minimal. Again, most tours drive from Reykjavik to the Gullfoss Waterfall and back to the capital, so traffic is heaviest along that route. Mobile phone coverage (LTE and 3G) was pretty good along the entire route.
In sum, a visit to Iceland has been on our European bucket list since 2013, and we’re very glad to have finally completed the trip. Whether based in North America or in Europe, Iceland is along your flight path as you traverse the Atlantic. I encourage you to visit (preferably in the off-season to capture some flight and hotel deals) as Iceland offers a lot on both short and long visits.
Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.
“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”
Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler