It was the 4th of July, over champagne and fireworks on our Manhattan rooftop, where I relentlessly pitched our two party guests and longtime friends on a weekend trip to Iceland. “We can go snowmobiling across glaciers, get floating massages in the Blue Lagoon….stay out all night for the big Friday runtur. It’s practically closer than LA. It’s cheap now!” I threw in for good measure.
It must have been a pretty persuasive picture that I painted under that smoke-filled sky, because come Monday morning I had a message in my inbox that said, “We’re in. Let’s book it.”
Our summer ended with a long and lazy trip to the Greek islands and September came with a big surprise; I discovered I was pregnant! And I would be 11 weeks along on our trip to Iceland.
Frantically googling, “blue lagoon, pregnant; hot tub, pregnant,” I came to terms with the fact I would need to cross one thing off my list. Also, snowmobiling. And participating in the all-night runtur; not a very pregnant-friendly activity either. The trip suddenly took a turn from what it was originally billed to be. Luckily when I broke the news to our travel companions, they were completely understanding and thrilled for us.
Iceland in October. We arrived in the dark. It took four college-educated New Yorkers a good 30 minutes in the airport parking lot trying to figure out how to start our rental Prius. The saga finally ended when one of us found a laminated card with instructions in the glove compartment — and we were on our way.
Our exploration began on the streets of compact Reykjavik. We grabbed a bowl of lobster soup from Sægreifinn, a fisherman’s hut down by the old harbor. We walked up and down Laugavegur, popping into shops and mentally bookmarking cafes and bars to go back to at night. From the top of concrete church Hallgrímskirkja at 240 feet high, we could see all of the crayola colored rooftops in the city. We even found Bill Clinton’s favorite hot dog stand, Bejarins Beztu, and asked for Eina með öllu (“one with everything.”)
By late afternoon, the sky was already turning pink — daylight hours this time of year are very limited. We headed back towards the direction of the airport and about 40 minutes in, spotting a towering plume of steam from the highway, made a quick left into the Blue Lagoon complex. I waited outside by the massive geothermal pool, bundled in my winter coat, while my husband and friends retreated to the locker rooms and emerged in white spa robes. They described the water as hot-tub temperature, with a floor of sandy mud and some hot spots throughout. I wandered back inside to the gift shop and eyed a bunch of delicious looking face and body products that sadly contained ingredients also not recommended for expectant women.
On our second day, we set out to see more of the country and started with the Golden Circle tour — a popular tourist route in South Iceland that covers about 185 miles, looping from Reykjavík into central Iceland and back. The three stops on the route are the national park Þingvellir, the waterfall Gullfoss, and the geysers Geysir and Strokkur.
A minor set-back — we followed the route up a hill over a patch of ice and found our weak little electric car losing traction, spinning its wheels, leaving us stuck in the middle of the road with a bus at the top of the hill having problems of its own. The girls got out of the car and the guys slowly backed it up down the hill pumping the brake.
Moving on, we switched directions and reached Pinglevir — A UNESCO World Heritage Site with stunning scenery and the Almannagjá fault (where the European and North American tectonic plates meet.) Gulfoss, a dual-folding waterfall, was thundering. Cold and windy and breathtaking at the same time, we were rewarded with a rainbow during our visit. Lastly, we drove to Geysir for the finale. With the smell of sulphur all around, we waited for Strokkur’s boiling water to burst out of the ground. Every 5 minutes of anticipation led to a shot at that perfect photo.
For dinner we set out to find Fjorubordid in Stokkseyri. We ordered the lobster feast for four — dozens and dozens of langoustine tails in garlic butter with tiny crispy potatoes. A large group of locals were celebrating a birthday party with a Beatles sing-along one room away.
We road-tripped to the 60-mile long Snaefellnus peninsula on our last day in Iceland, which is dominated by the stunning icecap Snæfellsjökull. Driving through this part of the island makes you feel as though you are on another planet. Craggly mountains and volcanic peaks, glistening beaches, and fields of all different colors — pinks, purples, greens. There is not much to do here — not many people, not many towns — aside from enjoying your company, the crisp Icelandic air, and incredible landscapes.
Recounting this whole experience, coupled with the fact that my brother and sister-in-law are there right now (jealous!) makes me vow to return one day in the very near future — with my little boy outside of the womb this time.
Geirsgata 8, in Reykjavik’s old harbour
Phone: +354 553 1500
Phone: +354 663 8300
Bollagarðar 4 -170 Seltjarnarnes
Phone: +354 894 4515
Phone: +354 420 8800
Thingvellir National Park | 801 Selfoss
Phone: +354 482 2660
Waterfall located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland
Geysir and Strokkur
Geyers to the north of the Laugarvatn in the south of Iceland
Eyrarbraut 3a | 825 Stokkseyri
Phone: +354 483 1550
peninsula situated to the west of Borgarfjörður, in western Iceland