Stopover in Iceland

After our red-eye from Washington D.C. to Keflavik airport in Iceland, we were bleary eyed and grumpy. Our pit-stop at the Blue Lagoon was a great cure for jetlag. Conveniently located on a lava field midway between Keflavik airport and Reykyavik city, the Blue Lagoon is a worthwhile tourist trap. It offers a modern spa experience in the middle of a bleak landscape:

Entrance to Blue Lagoon

After a long soak and wiping away our silica mud masks

40 degree F weather and steaming water

We took the requisite post-lagoon shower in the spa's futuristic facilities, scrubbed and conditioned the residual silica out of our hair, and headed straight to Reykyavik to nap in our AirBnB, an efficient and cozy one room arrangement called "Katla's Cottage."

Rested and rejuvenated, some pictures from our evening walk around charming downtown Reykyavik:

Walking along the coast

"Sun Voyager" sculpture, designed to resemble a Viking ship

Hallgrimskirkja, the largest church in Iceland

I'd heard a few things about Icelandic horses before our trip. They are a unique breed of horses that are small (almost pony-sized) and shaggy that were originally brought to Iceland by the Vikings. Though I had never been horseback riding before, the images of these storybook long-maned horses convinced me that there was no better place than Iceland to try it for the first time.

After informing our guide that the only horseback riding experience I had was of the merry-go-round sort, he entrusted me to Stiaki (Icelandic for "stake"), a steady, unwavering horse who lived up to his name. Unfortunately, Sandeep was assigned a horse named Indiana Jones...who also lived up to his name.

Sandeep and Indiana Jones, before their ride

Sandeep and Indiana Jones, after their ride

Stiaki posing at the farm

Luckily we survived our 10 kilometer trot through the gorgeous mountain greenery and emerged only wet and frozen. After a quick lunch of tomato soup and bread at the horse farm, we were picked up for our next activity of the day: a tour of Iceland's famous Golden Circle. Feeling a little self-conscious as I got on the nearly full bus covered in mud and smelling of horse, I quickly found a seat and happily basked in the warmth of the bus's heating system. As the tour guide narrated the history of each of the landmark sites we were about to see, I drifted in and out of sleep. I woke up in time for each of our stops:

First stop: Thingvellir National Park 
Thingvellir National Park lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic ridge and the boundary between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian

The lake at Thingvellir Park supposedly offers the best scuba diving in the world

Second stop: Golfuss Waterfall (Golden Falls)

Last stop: Geysir. In recent years, Geysir erupts with less frequentcy. This photo is of Strokkur, a nearby geyser that erupts every few minutes, getting ready to go off.