JFK to Reykjavík

Wheels touched down at Keflavik Int’l Airport at 9AM GMT on a cold, clear and WINDY day. Having most of the day to explore before checking in at our apartment in Reykjavík, we traveled the Suðurnes, or Southern Peninsula. First stop: the town of Garður, where there was a golf course, but considering it was a Monday and the winds were gusting to gale strength, no golfers. A cheap joke about Iceland is that if you ever get lost in an Icelandic forest, just stand up. That's not exactly true, but there aren’t really pine forests here either. In the Suðurnes, finding a tree is a bit of a challenge, given the fields of lava rock and moss that make up most of the landscape. I imagine golfing here would be like playing St. Andrews.

We headed up to the northwestern tip of the peninsula to the lighthouse at Garðskagi, before winding south to the village of Hafnir, where the landscape changes to something closer to the moon - gone are the moss covered lumpy fields of lava rock, replaced by endless foreboding black rock, and not much else. The cliffs at Hafnabarg were a quick stop while we tried to avoid being swept up by the brutal winds coming in off of the North Atlantic.

From here, we entered the first geothermal area we would encounter, easily recognizable by the fact steam was spewing out of the ground and hills around us. Nearby, the geothermal plant Orkuverið churns away, and there are a few vantage points where you can get close enough to the boiling springs to hear them and get partially soaked by the massive plumes of steam flying across the landscape. Just touching the ground next to the path feels uncomfortably warm, and its a reminder to never, ever leave the marked path.

Now covered in a fine spray of sulfuorous water, we made our the way to the Blue Lagoon. To the locals, the Blue Lagoon is probably like the Empire State Building is to New Yorkers - impressive, beautiful, but you don’t really ever go there, as it’s full of tourists. (If you want to meet the locals while having a soak, there are pools and hot springs all around the country.) Nonetheless, Blue Lagoon is a bit of a luxury treat, particularly after a long day of travel. Settling into the neon blue water, throwing a bit of algae mask on the face and sipping on a Gull lager (or green smoothie) is very, very relaxing. Plus, you get free entertainment watching the nervous looks on new comers when they realize they have to shower - naked - and are expected to scrub their bits well before entering the pool. This is enforced at any pool in Iceland, for good reason. Just get in there, get it done, then put your trunks on and go outside and soak. No one cares about your bits anyway. They're worried about their bits. From there it was about 40 minutes into Reykjavik, and our apartment on Laugarvegur, a shopping street filled with cafes, shops and some suspiciously touristy spots, such as the burger joint named for Chuck Norris and a bar themed around the Big Lebowski.

In an effort to avoid jet lag, I headed out to walk around town, found myself at the top of the hill where the massive concrete church Hallgrimskirkja stands, then walked down through the side streets until heading home to pass out.

Landscape near Kepflavík Airport
Icelandic kelp. It's kelp, but it's in Iceland, so it's much cooler.
Garðskagi lighthouse detail
Garðskagi lighthouse detail
The first of many churches we'd see. Somewhere near Nylenda.
Moonscape near Hafnaberg. Markers representing planets in the solar system were strewn through this route.
Steam emerging from the ground at Orkuverið
"Hot" ground
The path to the source of all this steam. It's a good idea to stay on it and not stray.
Shortly after this photo the wind shifted and I was enveloped in a cloud. Totally worth getting wet.
Hafnaberg, looking out over the North Atlantic.
This could either be a anti-freeze spill in Ozone Park, or the Blue Lagoon. It's the latter.
Touristy, pricey, but worth it after a long day.
Blue Lagoon aka Blaá Lonið
Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavík
Hallgrimskirkja, Interior
Looking up
Pipe organ at Hallgrimskirkja
Ceiling detail
Street art on Laugarvegur, Reykjavík