Deep under the covers and all bundled up to stay warm, we figure out our plans for the next day. We look at the itinerary we wrote before we arrived, look up directions, figure out where the gas stations and grocery stores are and make final decisions on what we want to see from the different options we had researched. Tomorrow is our last day in Iceland, and we have booked a relaxed afternoon in a famous geothermal spa. But Marlien’s feet are still itchy, and she proposed driving back to visit a waterfall we missed on our way to our hostel. I just drove for 3,5 hours straight, of which the last hour was on icy mountain roads in the fog and rain. A relaxed day that doesn’t include a lot of driving actually sounds better than a majestic waterfall at this point. But my friend has a wanderlust that can convince even the biggest homebody to get off the couch and explore. She’s right, we’re here now and we should make the most of our last day. I look at the map again, and calculate the extra driving time we’re willing to add to our morning. “What if…” I say to Marlien, “instead of driving back the same road to see that waterfall, we use those extra miles to make a detour on our way to the Blue Lagoon and visit that geyser and Gulfoss waterfall everyone’s talking about?”. A plan is made. We are going to cram the Golden Circle into our last morning here.
Marlien and I have a very similar travel style, which makes every trip we do together so fun. We both love preparation; we had a detailed itinerary before we even entered the plane and our shared Pinterest board is filled with articles and photographs to bot inspire and inform us. But we also both love the spontaneous adventure. We always have a plan, which saves us a lot of time and money, but we are also always flexible. We had decided prior to the trip to skip the most touristy attractions, like Reykjavik and the Golden Circle. But hey, what if we’re there so early that the busses full of Asians and Americans haven’t arrived yet, and see some of those Icelandic highlights without getting annoyed by the crowds?
We can’t see a thing. It’s raining, it’s foggy, it’s dark and there’s snow on the road in front of us. We laugh about the fact that we’re getting ourselves into yet another semi-dangerous situation. Our guardian angels are working over-time whenever we’re traveling. It isn’t until well after 9am that the thick darkness starts to lift and we can finally see the road, and the world around us a bit better. We find ourselves in winter wonderland. There’s snow everywhere. You might think that Iceland is as white and chilly as its name, but we’ve actually seen a lot of lush greens and lazy suns lingering at the horizon. Having our windows now be a frame for many shades of white, adds yet another layer of variety to our trip.
Pre-dusk light, the dark lava ground in stark contrast with the white snow, steam coming out of the ground and the sound of boiling water everywhere. I can’t help but think that this would be a great set for a script that includes clowns with knifes, the spirits of Icelandic ancestors and a high-pitched cry in the distance. Perhaps that’s why I screamed a little when the big geyser exploded right next to me. Spraying water high up in the air, it’s as surreal as its surroundings. I actually missed the moment with my camera – twice. Ah well. Either way: check. We’ve seen the great Strokkur Geysir.
First footprints the snow. There’s nothing like it. Especially when the footprint is set on a trail next to the most famous waterfall in Iceland. Our plan to be there before the crowds has worked, the snow is still fresh and relatively untouched. There’s no frame in the world this majestic waterfall can fit into. It’s like the earth cracked open and water just drops into its depths. We ask someone to take our picture, but realize afterwards that our thirty layers of clothing is making us so incredibly unattractive that this picture will never see the light of day. It’s an impressive view, and wonder what it looks like in the summer time. They say there’s always a rainbow above the waterfall, and the green surroundings make it look like you’re in paradise. I still prefer Winter Wonderland over Paradise, even though I cannot feel my toes anymore.
We did it. I’m defrosting my toes by holding them in front of the vent in the car. I scroll through my pictures. Where most people spend 1-2 days with a Golden Circle tour, we did it in 1.5 hour. Now we’re on our way to the Blue Lagoon, and both happy that we decided to spend as little time as possible on the touristy things and happy that we did get a chance to see these two impressive forces of nature. We put on our favorite Christmas song and see the white mountain glide by.
Iceland in November really is all that it promised to be.