ICELAND ADVENTURE - DAY 3 – Blue Lagoon in a hurricane (Grindavik)

July 02, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

August 2016

ICELAND ADVENTURE - DAY 3 – Blue Lagoon in a hurricane (Grindavik)


Map of day 3 route

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Today is the day we met up with our tour.  Except for us and two others, the rest of our tour group arrived in Iceland around 7:30 this morning after flying overnight.  The bus met them at the airport and brought them over to the Northern Lights Inn for breakfast.  Talk about coincidence!  That just happened to be the same hotel we were staying at.  What are the odds?  So around 8:00am we wandered down to the lobby and met our guides and the rest of the sleepy people on our tour. 

In case you’re wondering, our tour consisted of 18 travelers and was through Road Scholar (formerly Elder Hostel).  This is a non profit, educational oriented tour company that runs tours all over the world and of all sorts of types such as history, culture, art, and food all the way up to high adventure.  This particular one is a “Photo Tour” so in addition to our regular guide (Erik) who provided all the location, cultural and historical content as we drove around, there was also a professional photographer (Petur) who provided photographic specific lectures on several of the days.  Compared to other tour companies Road Scholar tends to be a bit cheaper (it’s a non profit), is typically well run and includes a fair amount of educational content.  The up front tour cost includes all hotels, all local transportation, all admission fees and pretty much all meals.  In addition, there are no “Extras” or “Optionals” as they say in the trade where they try to sell you extra features or side trips along the way – everybody on the tour gets to do everything without having to shell out more money.  And a strict no tipping policy.  I think this is our 4th or 5th trip with them.



Anyway, this morning we met the group and after breakfast headed off to the famous Blue Lagoon which was only a mile or three from the hotel.  As you know, Iceland is very volcanic.  It is the only place where the mid Atlantic ridge pokes up above the surface of the ocean.  This “ridge” as they call it, is actually a seam between the North American and European tectonic plates where they are moving away from each other (aka “Sea Floor Spreading”).  As they move apart lava wells up in the crack and forms new crust – which in this case turns out to be Iceland.  Anyway, what all this boils down to is that Iceland is made up of volcano’s, lava fields (some new, some ancient) and many geothermal areas where there are geysers, hot springs, and steam vents.  Sitting on top of all of this are some massive glaciers – one of which is the largest in Europe - which many times are right on top of areas prone to volcanic activity. 

Well, guess what happens if a volcanic eruption occurs right under a glacier as happens here quite often?  All of that glacial ice suddenly melts, gets mixed in with the lava pumice and ash and heads down hill causing devastating flooding and building massive flood plains which many times fill in part of the ocean making the island larger.  Wow, when I started typing this I had no idea I would be giving you all a geology lesson, but so be it. 



Anyway, let’s get back to the Blue Lagoon.  As mentioned before, Iceland has several Geothermal plants that tap into the volcanic heat at a steam vent or thermal pool to provide electricity and hot water for the cities.  Once the steam or hot water is tapped of most of it’s heat it is discharged from the plant.  The Blue Lagoon is a small lake filled with this discharge water from the plant as well as some additional water directly from underground hot springs.  It’s a big spa-resort sort of affair– sort of like a high end health club or European resort-spa.  You pay your fee, get towels, go to the locker room and put on your swim suit, rinse in the shower and then go out into this lagoon.  The water in the lagoon varies in temperature from warm to hot (depending on where you stand) and the water has a high mineral content, but not much of a sulfur odor.  It varies in depth from about 3 feet to about 6 feet and there are areas with places to sit.  It’s actually quite relaxing and lovely.

However, the weather wasn’t so lovely on our day.  Not only was it raining buckets, but there were gale force winds whipping the rain sideways.  So, the trick was to keep as much of your body in the warm water as possible with the least amount above water level.  This was fine in the deeper areas but as you approached the shore where you entered or exited it got quite shallow and we were all doing the “duck walk” to keep as much body in the water as possible.

After about 3 hours of “taking in the waters” we headed back to the same hotel, had a typical Iceland lunch of meat soup (think vegetable soup with chunks of meat in it) and bread followed by a meeting for introductions and logistics.

Blue Lagoon, in Gale force storm, from inside restaurant shot with Cell Phone

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Blue Lagoon, in Gale force storm, from inside restaurant shot with Cell Phone

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Blue Lagoon, in Gale force storm, from inside restaurant shot with Cell Phone

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Remember, most of the group had flown all night and were still in their travel cloths with their suitcases tucked away in the belly of the bus.  So, off we went in the bus - in a full blown gale rocking the bus as we went - to see the sites around Grindavik.  We drove out to the tip of the Supurnes peninsula and the Old Grindavik lighthouse where a few of us ventured out of the bus for a photo.  We could not get more than a foot from the bus without being blown over so we leaned against the bus for stability while trying to keep the rain off the lens and grabbed a few shots.  The smart folks stayed on the bus. 


This lighthouse is a typical tall white tower lighthouse with a red roofed keepers house below.  Interestingly it is not by the water.  It’s up on a hill nearly half a mile from the coast.  It seems that after several previous lighthouses were washed away in storms they decided to change locations.  Smart move. 


Old Grindavik Light house in driving rain

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After the lighthouse we drove off road to a point on a cliff overlooking the raging sea for a few more soaking photos.  I ventured out again in the howling wind and had to lean into the gale at a 45 degree angle to keep from being blown over.  I was able to get one or two shots, but nothing note worthy.  While we were at this place a van full of folks on an “adventure” tour pulled up and those crazies decided to hike up to the top of the hill.  I’m amazed that some of them didn’t just get blown off the top – but they were young a and foolish and I’m sure had a great time.  Then we headed back to Grindavik and the bus drove us along the same dirt road as we used on our horseback ride the day before out to that same small orange lighthouse.  I’m glad we saw it the ay before when it was only cloudy as in today’s weather it no where nearly as interesting.

Reykjanes point (South West tip of Iceland)

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From there we headed east along the southern coast.  Along the way, we drove through Grindavik, which today’s arrivals had not seen.  The bus drove out along many of the dirt roads we traversed on horseback the day before and out to that little orange lighthouse which I showed you yesterday.   


Lava fields near Grindavik

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After leaving Grindavik for the last time, we headed East and went through the town of Selfoss.  “Foss” in Icelandic means “Waterfall” so if you see “foss” at the end of a word that is what it means.  This South-Eastern portion of Iceland is made up of jagged lava fields interspersed with flood plains and everywhere you look are waterfalls gushing over the cliffs.  Some tall, some wide, some a thin ribbon and some with many streams, but all quite full of water.  Quite different than home in California.  After a long day we landed at our hotel several miles northwest of Selfoss (the Fosshotel Hekla) for a nice dinner and good nights sleep.  This hotel is way out in the country amid horse pastures and rolling hills.  Quite bucolic, if not for the rain.  To make up for our drenched day, we were given a very nice full rainbow over a horse pasture at sunset.

I sure am glad we arrived in Iceland 2 days early as the others on our tour were dead on their feet so to speak.

FossHotel near Selfoss

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Thanks for reading -- Dan



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