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Trip Report Five day Iceland getaway in rainy November

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My husband and I (late 50s) just returned from a few days in Iceland. I'd been to Reykjavik before on a free Icelandic Air stop-over to Stockholm but did not get out of the city, and Tom had never been.

It was kind of a spur of the moment trip (booked only a month ahead, which for us is spur of the moment) thanks to super cheap flights on Wow Air, direct from BWI to Reykjavik for about $250 round trip! Unbelievable. Of course, there's an extra charge for everything but the bathrooms. Still we ended up paying just over $800 round trip for TWO of us to fly to Iceland. Heck, Tom had always wanted to see the Northern Lights, and while there's never a guarantee you won't have steady rain/clouds or lack of Aurora activity, for that price we decided to go for it.

Here's how it went...

Day 1

Wow turned out to be just fine. We'd paid extra to be able to carry on 12 kg (about 26 pounds) each. We wore our heaviest clothing and put the iPads and a few other miscellaneous items in our pockets to "make weight." Although they said they were going to dim the cabin lights, they never really did. Lights above the overhead bins stayed on and kept the cabin quite light through the trip. At least it was a smooth flight (I hate turbulence!) and less than 6 hours later were there.

Sixt car rental met us in the arrival hall for the short hop over to the rental location. We'd opted for a small SUV, which they upgraded to a large SUV. Although it sounded good at the time, an hour later as we were navigating the narrow Reykjavik streets, it didn't seem quite as good. Still, thanks to the GPS we arrived at our hotel, Arcturus Guesthouse, without a hitch by about 7:30. Fortunately our room was ready for an early check-in. After a rejuvenating nap and shower, we set off to explore.

November days in Iceland are short, and I mean short. Sunrise at 9 or later; sunset around 4. With only a few hours of daylight, we decided to just roam and soak up the ambience. Stopped for coffee and a bagel at Kaffitar, a very cute and cozy spot overlooking a charming street. We hit a few shops, then walked up to the big concrete church for the elevator ride up to the best view of the city. Love the colorful roofs and view of the harbor.

For lunch we had one of the famous Baejarins Beztu Pylsur hot dogs then headed back to Arcturus to get our swim suits and check out one of the many city pools. Vesturbæjarlaug was only a five minute walk from the guesthouse. I know the naked shower required before pool entry makes some uncomfortable, but I didn't mind it so much. No one seemed to care and I figured I'd never see any of those women again. The "hot pots" - or hot tubs as we call them - were great. Different ones had different temperature signs - 38 to 40 was fantastic. One was labeled 8 (omg - are you kidding me?) and we didn't dare try it. Many did, though - but not for long!

For dinner we walked back into the city center (about 10 minutes). Glo, a healthy, semi-vegetarian cafeteria style restaurant was just the ticket. I had "raw pizza" which consisted of a granola cracker-like crust piled high with arugula, avocado, strawberries, and a cashew dressing. It was delicious. Tom had a chicken wrap. Those were our entries, and we picked three salads to go with each entrée. I had fruit salad, pasta salad, and a Cole slaw type thing. (I forget what Tom had.) Really yummy.

Afterwards we stumbled across a gelato shop and each got a scoop - Daim for me (toffee flavored) and cappuccino for Tom. We made a mental note to stop there on our last night when we returned to Reykjavik. I don remember the name of the place but it was around the corner from Glo (left out of Glo and left again) and a block or two (or three) down on the main drag. You had to go down a few steps from the sidewalk. Worth seeking out.

It had been drizzling off and on throughout the day and was so overcast we didn't even consider trying to find the Northern Lights - plus the comfortable bed with cozy down comforters and down pillows beckoned. The temperatures weren't bad, though, (around 40F) and we'd had a great first day so we happily walked back to Arcturus where we got a great night's sleep.

Day 2 - Golden Circle

It was another rainy, overcast day, but our spirits were not yet dampened as we hit the road for the Golden Circle. Wow, although Reykjavik is a nice little city, the countryside is the real headliner. Even with dreary skies, the stark landscape is beautiful. As we neared Thingeviller, the sun peeked through, creating a giant rainbow that went straight down to the ground. Part of what makes Iceland so beautiful is the light. That low sun in the sky, even at "high" noon, bathes the countryside in a brilliant glow beloved by photographers.

Unfortunately, it did not last long. At Thingeviller we enjoyed the waterfalls, the walk up the geologic fault, and the pretty church. Although the clouds had returned, the rain mostly held off - just a few sprinkles. After about a zillion pictures, we headed for Geysir, which is right on the ring road. This was just a 20 minute stop - long enough to see Stokkur erupt 3-4 times, enjoy the atmosphere (although not literally - as the sulphur smell was quite strong), and get a few more dozen pictures.

Next up was Gullfoss - wow, wow, wow. We thought it was spectacular. Love the way it cascades down in one direction and then makes a left turn for another, much longer drop. Unfortunately, the weather was miserable and the daylight already waning when we arrived around 3. We were so glad we'd invested in waterproof, windproof pants. We wore them every day with long underwear and they were just perfect. Despite the weather, we were in awe of Gullfoss and took it in from every vantage point. Even on sunny days, you'd get soaked from the spray.

Our room for the night was at the South Central Motel, about 10 miles south of Flúðir, a location I'd chosen because of its proximity to the Secret Lagoon. We wanted to relax and soak in the thermal water before settling in for the night. Ah, so glad we did. This was nothing like the pool in Reykjavik! It was a natural pool, surrounded by grass and mossy hillsides and was rock and sand on the bottom. It's not so much a "secret" anymore, but we found it to be untouristy and relaxing. We stayed a couple of hours. Be careful here - I rushed to get back in the water after getting my cellphone for a photo and slipped and fell on my foot. Nothing major, but it was bruised for a couple of days.

The South Central Motel was a real find. Right by the road on the way south. There was no reception desk (in November, anyway), but we'd received an email with our room number and a pin to unlock our room. It worked exactly right, easy as can be. Although the outside was very plain, the rooms were terrific. Very clean, small but nice bathroom, comfy beds, and a kitchen and TV. Very spacious. Oh, and there were bunk beds in addition to the king (two twins pushed together) so it would be suitable for four.

The only downside was there was no onsite restaurant.. It was completely dark by this time but we needed food. Earlier we had driven right past the motel and stopped at another inn a km or tow down the road to ask for directions. They told us to go back, but suggested we may want to come back for dinner. It was great - excellent homemade bread. Tom had a chicken dish and I had mushroom soup. Very nice. Then off to bed and looking forward to the South Coast.

More later

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