bara tíu dropar


Just ten drops

an old world idiom from Iceland, the translation, just ten drops, or, just a little bit.

This is our whirlwind trip to Iceland, packed with adventure, bara tíu dropar.

Geothermal pools, yeah, lot’s of those, real fancy ones like the Blue Lagoon and then there are the random countryside hot pots as they call them (Iceland is basically a damn volcano island).

Geysers, check (see above^^)

Valleys of Fire, check (see above^^^)

Immense waterfalls, check. (planet’s 2nd most glaciers)

Amazing grub, lamb, fish & chips, lot’s of fish and chips!

Any adventure of mine has to have beer: Einstok brewery!

Icelandic holiday music & Icelandic karaoke

hahaha, yes, we did all these things in 4 short days.

Surprisingly memorable moment: a local flea market.

On with it then,

96 hours of Iceland – bara tíu dropar 

Day 1. BNA-BOS-KEF: Blue Lagoon at 9am

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Most US flights leave the Eastern seaboard and are overnight. We were on Wow air, $250 RT from Boston!, and landed at 5:50am in Keflavik; a small airport about an hour’s drive from Reykjavik.

One of the most popular questions for arriving tourists is “It’s 6am in Iceland, what the hell do I do now??”

As luck has it, the Blue Lagoon, arguably Iceland’s most popular attraction, is only a 20min drive from the KEF airport.

Right.So, 5:50am, landed. By 7 we were thru customs, checked bags in tow.

#1 thing to do before you leave KEF: goto Duty Free and buy your booze! Saying Iceland is expensive is a gross understatement.

Here’s what we bought at Duty Free

1 12 pack Einstok ipa. 1 12 pack Einstok pale ale. 2 bottle of red wine.

10 chocolate bars. Oatmeal, Raisns. Bread. PB&J.

That’s Breakfast, Lunch, snacks, and life-saving flavored waters.

This took roughly 20minutes.

Done.

We took the shuttle to our rental car location, which took about a total of 30minutes.

20 minutes to check out the car and get oriented and by 8am we were off.

{Sidenote: The roads are wide, gps works, very easy to navigate. I have Verizon so for $10/day you can flip your service to international plan, viola! Waze, Biotches. }

We were in the Blue Lagoon parking lot by 8:30am, it was so dark, and raining, and cold. *December, there are only a handful of daylight hours each day. Throw-in twilight and dusk, and you have maybe 6-7 hours of useable light.

Jena dug out her suit. I rustled a Einstok (local ipa) out of the duty free box, it was, after all, 2:30am.

The Pros of being at the Blue Lagoon, in December, when they open at 9am.

  1. There are no lines
  2. Zero light noise. It’s pitch black outside, which makes the hot pool experience even more surreal. The stars are popping and if it rains sideways (it rained sideways), dunking your head under the 90 degree water feels amazing.
  3. There are no people in the blue lagoon. Well, there are hardly people there. We saw maybe 20. Compare that to a sunny day, there can be thousands at the Blue Lagoon, or what is commonly referred to by locals as the world’s nastiest bathtub.
  4. The sunrise is amazing.
  5. Cons:
    1. They have alcohol huts, serving local craft beer and prosecco.
    2. There are silica face masks, algae face masks, and they’re included with your ticket.
    3. Inside the facility, they require that you take a shower and use soap (gasP) before you enter the pool. Which, tbh, after a full day of travel, this was really nice.

    Those are the cons. We don’t blame you if you change your mind.

click thru to read more about the islands largest hottest coolest geothermal bathtub. 

Travel for 24 hours then spend 4+ hours in a geothermal pool with cold beer and algae face masks, the perfect way to kick this off.

The problem: we now had to drive to our Air BnB rental in Reykjavik, which was a short 45min drive. Easy right?

Ugh. Soooo tired.

I drove with my head out the window, occasionally slapping my face. Jena promised not to fall asleep and she almost made it out of the Blue Lagoon parking lot before she was cutting timber.

Our 1br Reykjavik apartment was perfectly located at the end of the peninsula, an airy seaside getaway with great views of the Northern Sea and lighthouse. The property was very modern and provided everything we needed for our basecamp. A short 10 minute drive from city center, allowed us to pop over for lunch, dinner, drinks, and just far enough away to enjoy the serenity of the sea. Didn’t hurt that this was probably the steal of the trip, roughly 80/USD day.

After our first day, a 24 hour travel bender, followed by the Blue Lagoon noodle and then we drove to Reykjavik. We had arrive too early to check in! Crap. We found a local fish house near the rental property and, famished, gorged on Iceland’s fish and chips (sooo good), and a bottle of wine.

Bellies full, buzzed with wine and exhaustion. We finally settled into our neat seaside property, and subsequently slept for a solid 12 hours….about 4 hours past sunrise. Oops. LOL.

Day 2. Reykjavik – Golden Circle (Gulfoss – Geyser) – Reykjavik

Self-guided adventures.

Many locals recommend the tour busses. I think this is more a function of safety in the Winter (high winds, snow ice) and also tourism (easy way to see the sights if your thing).

We’re not tour bus people though, and the golden circle is easy to drive!

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Frantic that we had slept our day away, we snarfed some duty free oatmeal, guzzled some coffee. Packed a carafe with more coffee, 2 PB&J samiches, and out the door we went. No clue, what lay in store, other than to drive the Golden Circle to Gulfoss, and then go with it from there.

The weather had been crap all week and the forecast was more rain and wind, mid 40’s. So we put on our warm dry layers, grabbed our chow, and out the door we went. Since we were on a sun-clock, and had slept until nearly noon, we decided to drive to the furthest point on the golden circle, and then work our way back before it got really dark.

At the midway point of the Golden Circle, in South Iceland, is Gulfoss, the iconic waterfall on the Hvítá (White) river, which is fed by Iceland´s second biggest glacier, the Langjökull.

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Above is a cartoon of how the river basin has eroded over time.

We arrived at sunset, and surprisingly, the rain had stopped and the clouds blew open.

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This is where the story gets a little sappy. Apologies in advance, but I had every intention of proposing to Jena on a fat bike in the snow, under the northern lights.

Sadly, the weather wasn’t interested in cooperating, it wasn’t quite cold enough for snow, so it rained the entire time, sideways.

The bike touring company lady whom I had been planning the entire plan regrettably cancelled our reservation, and recommended an alternative plan.

She said that Iceland was full of mystery and beauty and that I would know when the time was right…so naturally I didn’t share her enthusiasm. {meanwhile, I was carrying Jena’s engagement ring in my jacket pocket, in the rain and wind, terrified that I was going to lose it}

Right. Back to Day 2, Gulfoss.

Following a short 90min drive from our Reykjavik air bnb, we arrived at Gulfoss just before sunset, parked our jeep and scrambled down the path towards the sound of roaring water.

Since the weather had been foul all day week, there really weren’t many tourists there, maybe 100 or so total. Just like the day before at the Blue Lagoon, it appeared we had the park almost entirely to ourselves.

We took lots of photos on our descent from the elevated gravel parking lot to a large rock shelf that was riverside, which served as an observatory for photos.

A man from Scotland asked if I would take a photo of he and his wife, and then again.

A couple more photos on the way down, I obliged the Scot. Jena was off doing her best Ansel Adams impersonation.

As we approached the landing area, the clouds pulled apart to present a soft orange hue over a beautiful blue sky. The lady from the bike touring company wasn’t full of beans. .

I wandered past Jena and began surveying the area, and found a spot that provided a great vantage point of the roaring river and falls.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to ask, and was thinking about how much sunlight was left when over the sound of the river, the Scot, asked if I would take just one more photo and afterwards, I asked if he wouldn’t mind taking ours.

As I handed my iPhone to the gentleman and anxiously looked for Jena, I informed the man that this would be a very special moment, and asked if he would kindly take a bunch of photos.

I waved for Jena to join me on the rock ledge. The Scot, frow burrowed, looked confused. I said he would figure it out soon enough, just take a lot of photos. His wife smiled and nodded affectionately as if she recognized what was going down. Dude on the other hand, I gave him my vote of confidence as I reached for Jena’s hand and positioned her next to the ledge.

She smiled.

I felt like there was a tornado in my gut.

We looked at the Sunset and each other, smiling. I was surprisingly calm at this point.

I looked at Jena and she seemed to recognize something was up, “what’s wrong?” she asked.

I offered back, “Honey, don’t be mad.”

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The sound of people clapping and whistiling could be heard.

I did not drop the ring.

She said yes.

The rest is kind of surreal.

We wandered around Gulfoss a bit longer, enjoying the moment, taking in the views as the sun was fading, the sound of roaring water.

At dusk we loaded-up the car, still smiling, and began our trek back towards Reykjavik, engaged.

4. Day 3 Gljúfrabúi, “the one that lives in the canyon”

So, there was this Youtube video that helped bring us to Gljúfrabúi – the secret waterfall.

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Gljúfrabúi, a short 90min drive from Reykjavik, is really an adventure and worthy of the time. Having the right gear, waterproof boots, pants, jacket…basically waterproof everything, a change of clothes (’cause you’re gonna get wet anyways), and of course, some cold beer in a cooler in the jeep.

Squeeze thru a crevice in the canyon wall is easy. Not busting your ass on the slippery rocks and subsequently finding yourself in the cold water, that’s the trick.

As you enter the cave, the sound of roaring water is amplified off of the canyon walls. It’s colder and there’s water spray everywhere, like a giant misting shower.

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The secret fall is also conveniently located next to the giant waterfall, Seljalandsfoss

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^^^Jena

Successfully made out of Gljúfrabúi and relatively dry. We walked back to  Seljalandsfoss and followed a path behind this giant waterfall. Amazing. Of course, I wandered down a rocky ledge to be near where the water crashes into a giant pool. Dumb. For a moment it felt like I was in a whirlwind of water. Then I just realized that I was soaked, to the bone.

Ha. On our hike out, we stopped at a tiny shack near the parking lot. We passed on the wool clothing items ($$$$) and went for a hot serving of some hella good lamb stew.

Swapped clothes in the parking lot and off we were – followed by some shenanigans on the way back towards Reykjavik..

5. Reykjadalur Valley – Valley of Fire

We had this marked as a must-do activity. When Princess Sleep-in-the-Jeep-Alot, woke from her slumber, she asked if we had time to stop, since it was on the way back to Reykjavik.

*Note: locals had recommended avoiding this activity since the weather had been so foul.

So naturally, we completely disregarded that advice, and decided to do this hike

in the cold & windy rain

….and at night. LOL

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Marching up through an Icelandic valley at what I would describe as twilight, just a vague hint of light left in the sky, not quite dark yet. Of course, it was spitting rain and getting colder, with the occasional gust of wind that made the cold rain against your face sting just a bit.

Pretty amazing adventure.

We passed a few bubbling 200 degree hotpots on the way up, and eventually arrived at a stream that locals had constructed wooden sidewalks and a wind shelter.

It was dark thirty now, and notably colder. The wind had begun to really kick.

I was stoked to get in, using the light from my iPhone to find a deep section of pooling warm water.

Always the wise one, Jena bailed on the dip.

I ducked behind the wind shelter, kicked off my hiking boots and gear. Within moments I had some board shorts on and was in the water.

To my dismay, it wasn’t super hot, but I was proud of making the trek and reaching the valley of fire soak, at night no less, in spitting windy cold af rain.

Until I had to get out. LOL

Changing in the dark while with spitting rain/ice and gusts of 15mph SUCKS ASS.

But damn, that sure was fun and memorable.

Fortunately, we met a couple hiking out as we were leaving, they had headlamps *note:take headlamps next time.

We made short work of the descent into town, thanked our trail mates for sharing their head lamps (and assuredly avoiding injury using our iPhones to find our way back.

We were back in the jeep towards dinner and a beer.

5. Downtown Reykjavik

Iceland is the size of NYC.

Reykjavik, the country’s capital and largest central populous at 125k people, and is roughly 100 square miles, or, the same size as say, North Las Vegas. 

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Top 100 Cities Ranked by Land area in square miles, 2010

So not a giant city, but it sure is dreamy.

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photo credit: Diego Delso

Located on the southwestern coast of Iceland, on the Faxa Bay, the thing we appreciated about our time here was the density of the city. Our rental property was at the quiet end of the peninsula, or, drive to the end of the road, look for the lighthouse, and park. Quiet, serene, with nice views of the bay.

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The really neat thing about a dense city, is that you can go from jammies to scandinavian night life in about 20 minutes. Which we did, every evening following our adventures.

For the sake of time, I’m gonna blow through our city experiences, which as a reminder, were after our adventuring, so, pretty much beer and food joints LOL

(a). Sweet Pig Gastro Pub

Cool dive right downtown with really interesting eats

  • lightly cured arctic char
  • smoked puffin
  • minke whale
  • Icelandic horse carpaccio

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Can’t say we’re big fans of the horse, but, the local suds helped wash it down and we move on to the free entertainment emanating from the basement:

which was fun and also the most Non-Scandinavian thing ever, Katy Perry.

(b) Bryggjan Brugghús Iceland’s first brewery with amazing food and a private music room.

This may have been my 11th serving of fish & chips. The suds were on point.

Luck was on our side as a local band, YLJA was performing holiday melodies #FREE!

Wiping the last of the fish and chips off my face, I ordered a couple more pints and we settled into a private listening room for the show.

YLJA – “Ylja was formed in 2008 by guitarists/singers Gígja Skjaldardóttir and Bjartey Sveinsdóttir in Reykjavík, Iceland. With a common passion for vocal harmonies and love for the acoustic guitar, the two friends embarked on a musical journey – always trying to expand and broaden their sense for creativity.”

You can check out more of these ladies music here on Bandcamp

(c) Icelandic Fish & Chips

We had the Ling and Tusk. Seriously, for 1490 ISK (13 bucks) this was probably the best fish and chips I have ever had, IN MY LIFE.

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Jena enjoyed hers so much she broke out into a ELO song.

Weird twist of fate – we were enjoying our meal when to our surprise, the Canadian couple we did the Valley of Fire hike with, came over to our table! Sadly, we did not get a photo (like the one time I’m not snapping photos), but definitely a testament to how small Reykjavik really is.

Oh, the local beer, Einstok, is really tasty.

Okay – last food/beer joint to share

(d) Mikkeller Reykjavik 

We like beer, if you haven’t noticed. We also like adventuring. This place was on our list because of the beer, and in part, the house of the Mikkeller taproom.

Mikkeller & Friends Reykjavík is placed at Hverfisgata 12 – the house was built in the early 1900’s by a Guðmundur Hannesson, MD – and served as both his residence and the country’s first x-ray clinic.

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Lot’s of holiday ipas on tap, so, in full transparency, I had more than one.

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10. Moving day, 3pm flight.

One last stop on the way to the airport. The downtown Reykjavik flea market.

Something that we enjoy doing (when we’re not hiking in the dark, or, drinking beer), is experience the communities we visit.

Translation: People watching and cheap local gifts. 

The flea market didn’t open until 11. The airport was a solid 45min drive. We had to drop the rental off and check out bags.

Really, we had no time to do this, but by now I’m sure you’ve figure out we’re not conventional travelers.

We finally found some local wool gifts we could afford. Everything in Iceland is expensive, everything, wool tourist gifts are near the top of the exported goods sold, and as such, are near the top of the $$$ gifts. The idea of the flea market was in no small part to another traveler who recommended the flea market as a place to find wool products as a more reasonable price.

The two ladies in the photo above, were hilarious to deal with. We purchased a number of socks and mittens, and the bartering was pure gold. Not between myself and the ladies, mind you, but between the two ladies. They would smile at me, and then bicker at each other in their native tongue, about what god only knows, tap on the calculator, and then bicker some more. I was finally presented a price that was ridiculously less than the prices we had seen at the shops around town and out on the open road.

Done.

Jena, of course, in her absolute obsession of her favorite band, Electric Light Orchestra, found, you guessed it, a near mint condition ELO album.

and, my personal favorite score – I’m always hunting local art, our house is littered with what I would describe as a shitshow of bad art.

Long story short, and to wrap this up – there was a tiny booth, an obvious art vendor, loads of paintings and sculptures. High on the wall, this really neat landscape painting, really favored the landscape of Iceland.

Similar to Van Gogh type in style, large brush strokes, lots of acrylic, the colors were slightly faded from time but looking at the painting, my observation was that it was of one of Iceland’s many lava fields that are covered in moss. Green colors juxtaposed against Earthy dirt and iron.

Me to Jena: Think we can get this home?

Jena: Not sure…

Me to Vendor: Do you ship?

Vendor: No (broken english), but there is a post office nearby.

Jena: I’m not sure we have time.

Me to Vendor: How much?

Vendor: 50k kronos….

Me: {thinking…calculating in my head…}

Vendor: {look of despair}…I mean, 40k kronos.

Me: {furiously tapping on iPhone, converting ISK-USD……$330USD}

Me: If you can get it off that canvas board and roll it in the next 10 minutes, I’ll take it.

Jena: {look of bewilderment} – How are you going to get that home?

….

The rest is semantics.

We rolled the painting. I hit a ATM machine in the flea market, withdrew 40k ISK (small 3USD fee), paid the man, rolled it and wrapped it with some weird string ornaments. We put the painting into some plastic bags and then we hauled ass to the airport.

Dropped the rental jeep.

I cringed when we checked our bags with WOW – thinking the extra carry-on would cost 3 million dollars. The attendants smiled and moved-us along, no charge!

I stuffed the paining in the back of the overhead compartments, and that’s where it remained until we landed back in Boston, and then the same for our Nashville flight.

Fast fwd a few more weeks and the painting has a new simple DIY frame, made out of oak lattice board, distressed and stained dark.

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That’s a lot of memories crammed into 4 days in Iceland.

If you made it this far, you deserve a damn beer.Hit me up and I’ll meet you sometime for a cold one and help you plan your trip to Iceland. We really recommend you visit.

Thanks for reading!

 

2 thoughts on “bara tíu dropar”

  1. Great post, Don – Congratulations again to you and Jena! Unreal timing on this post, since JUST LAST NIGHT I was online researching how to set up a good trip to Iceland! My inspiration came from watching the Netflix documentary “Born Strong,” in which one of the 4 featured strongmen is Hafthor Bjornsson from Reykjavík (and needless to say it painted a glowing picture of Iceland).

  2. Neat! I’ll watch that on my flight tonight! Let’s go for beer, I’d love to hear what you’re planning!

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