Iceland Day One: Arrival, Covid Testing, Gullfoss Waterfall, Strokkur Geysir & Faxi Waterfall

Day 0 and Day 1 of our trip to Iceland.

I basically had one day between school ending and leaving for Iceland, and as a first-rate procrastinator, I always wait for the last minute to pack things. So packing for Iceland was a bit of a challenge. You can experience three seasons in one day in Iceland in June, so I had to pack for winter, but also spring and summer. This meant that stuff I usually wouldn’t take on an overseas vacation had to be included, like my 3 in 1 coat, fleece, hiking boots, gloves, a hat, scarf, and lots of layers. I also want to bring my Camelbak for the hiking we planned to do. By the time I finished packing, I was super close to the weight limit and brought far fewer clothes than I would normally pack on a two-week trip. And with the exception being my scarf, I actually did wear all of the layers during our time there. But since I had to pack so much extra stuff, there were things I had to leave at home that I normally would’ve brought, such as my tripod.

My carry-on was super heavy too. I brought a Microsoft surface, switch, iPad, and Kindle for the airport ride/trip. I also had to pack all of my medicine. Then there was all the documentation for Iceland, including our preregistered barcodes and the COVID vaccine documentation. I think my backpack was almost as heavy as my suitcase. I was really stressed out and frustrated before the trip because I couldn’t sign in to our flights. The JetBlue flight that we had to take to JFK didn’t even have documentation of us as passengers, and I spent a lot of time stressed out and messaging JetBlue on every social media site to make sure we were on the flights. Eventually, I got confirmation that we were on it, but my stress still didn’t leave me.

We woke up really early the morning that we left because we had to go to the kiosk at the airport and get our boarding passes printed, and IAH is a hot mess. Once we got to the airport, there was nobody at the airport counter, and I continued to freak out. Our flight was at 11 am, and there wasn’t anyone there at 9:30, and I was mentally panicking. Luckily, somebody eventually showed up. Finally, we signed in to our flight with our boarding passes to JFK, and KEF printed, and our luggage tagged, and I felt a little better. Going through security wasn’t too bad since it was somewhat early, and it was Wednesday, which is one of the better days to travel. The flight to JFK was pretty boring. I read on my kindle the entire time.

We landed at JFK, and that sucked. The JetBlue terminal is nowhere near the Icelandic air terminal, and we had to exit the airport, take a monorail to the international terminal. From there, we had to go through security again. We were both really sweaty from walking outside in NYC heat, and when we went through the scanners, we set them off in millions of places, and we both got to be rubbed down by security officers, who couldn’t believe the amount of sweat that coated both our clothing. I also had to have my carry-on searched through because apparently, they had to make sure my open bag of granola that I had been eating wasn’t covered in drugs. But eventually, we got to the terminal for our Iceland flight.  I got some Dunkin Donuts coffee and some bottled juice for the flight to Iceland. Then I just read until our flight boarded.

The flight to Iceland wasn’t exciting, though the sun didn’t set the entire time that we were flying to Iceland. It just sat in the sky. So that was kind of cool.

[this is from Justin’s phone, he took it]

I’ve never been able to sleep during flights. Even when I had to fly eleven or so hours to Israel for birthright after taking an Ambien, I couldn’t sleep. So I was awake for the entire flight. But, as international flights go, it wasn’t the worst. It was only 5ish hours long, so it was sort of like flying to California, which isn’t too bad. On the flight, Justin and I had our first introduction to Appelsín orange soda, which was the start of an addiction that lasted for the entire trip and resulted in a depression that we cannot find it anywhere in the United States. We landed in Iceland at about 5 am.

Here is a pic from the plane and an excellent example of my eyes changing from blue to gray. [My eyes are naturally blue, but they turn gray and sometimes green in different light]

I will say that wearing a mask for a lot of fucking hours. [It’s too hard to do the math when I started in one timezone and landed in another] was difficult, especially in an airplane, where the air is already dry, but we did it. On the flights to Iceland, everyone I observed was excellent about keeping their masks on. JFK airport was not the best at maintaining social distancing, but everyone I saw wore a mask correctly. KEF airport in Iceland was excellent about marking social distancing, and everyone wore their masks if anyone was curious about flying in the midst of the pandemic.

Keflavík Airport/Iceland has their shit down. I mean, I think after July 1st, it won’t be relevant anymore because all vaccinated travelers will no longer have to get a COVID test upon landing, nor will they have to quarantine until they receive their results. Still, regardless, I was very impressed with how organized the whole process was. We got off our flights, quickly went through customs, and our luggage was already waiting on the conveyer belt by the time we got there. After we got our luggage, we had to show them our barcode that we received from the preregistration, and then we went to another area of the airport where they scanned the barcodes and noted where we were staying for our quarantine. They didn’t ask for specifics like the address or anything. They just wanted to make sure that it had a private bathroom and bedroom. It couldn’t be a room in a shared hour, for example. Then we got a test tube and were sent to one of three testing areas, where they swiped our mouths and our noses. The person I had was very gentle, and the test wasn’t too bad, but I had one hell of a booger when they finished and needed tissues. After that, you were told to quarantine until you got your results.

After being tested, we called the car rental place, and they sent their shuttle. We got our car, a Toyota Rav 4, and we started the drive to our first Airbnb, which was about an hour south of the airport near the start of the golden circle. I enjoyed looking at the landscape out of the window as we drove.

[These were all taken with my phone]

We also rented a hotspot for our car, so that also gave us access to my Amazon music, so we were able to listen to that the entire time we were in Iceland, which was amazing because I couldn’t imagine driving Ring Road without our progressive power metal as the soundtrack. There was a lot of Savatage, Kamelot, and Delain played throughout our trip.

Our first Airbnb was a cabin that was about thirty minutes from Gullfoss Falls.

[taken with the DSLR]

The shower in that cabin was my favorite shower in all of the places that we stayed. It was a tall rainfall shower with geothermal water, and it was absolutely amazing, especially since I like REALLY HOT showers. It also had a geothermal hot tub. The view outside the cabin was beautiful too.

[the first two of  DSLR pics, the second is a phone pic]

The cabin [which was a part of a group of similar cabins] had this gorgeous view of the mountains and was surrounded by these purple flowers that I later identified as Nootka Lupine. Still, we both thought they looked a lot like purple bluebonnets. Bluebonnets are Texas’ state flower.

We had no desire to be an asshole American tourist and skip our quarantine, so we just chilled in our cabin. Knowing that we would have to quarantine, I had booked the first night’s lodging for the day before we arrived since our flight had been due to land so early. That way, as soon as we got our rental car and drove there, we could go in and chill as we were waiting for our COVID test results. Justin took a nap. I surfed the internet and read Reddit. We got tested around 5:30 am, and we got our results by noon, so it wasn’t a bad wait at all. We were both negative for COVID. Justin was sleeping when we got our results, so I just let him sleep. He woke up around 5 pm or so. The nice thing about summer in Iceland is that it does NOT get dark, especially in June, so we decided to start our sightseeing around then. We were right by Gullfoss Waterfall and Strokkur Geysir, so we decided to venture over that way. We went to Gullfoss first.

Gullfoss is a waterfall that is located in the canyon of the Hvítá river.  The waterfall itself is a staircase waterfall and because of the way the river flows over it. About a kilometer above the falls, the river turns sharply to the right and flows into something that looks like a staircase and plunges in two different places. One is 36 feet, and the other is 69 feet. The waterfall plunges into a crevice that is about 105 feet deep and 66 feet wide. The average amount of water that runs down the waterfall is 5000 cubic feet per second over the summer. The highest amount ever measured was 71000 cubic feet.

The waterfall was on the cover of an album called Porcupine by the band Echo and the Bunnymen. The waterfall was also in the music video for the song Heaven by the band Live. In my personal opinion, that is NOT one of Live’s better songs. My personal favorite is Lakini’s Juice. It also appeared briefly in the TV series Vikings. In Avatar: The Last Airbender, there’s an episode called Sokka’s Master, and the character Sokka learns to sword fight from the fire nation swordmaster Piandao. In one scene of the episode, Piandao takes Sokka to a waterfall, apparently based on Gullfoss.

Thank you, Wikipedia, for all those random facts.

The weather was pretty cloudy when we went to Gullfoss and Strokkur. The sky was pretty gray, and it was even raining at times. It was also windy. The temperature was probably in the low forties, if I had to guess. I enjoyed the colder weather. Justin was not a fan. But the gray sky did make it particularly challenging to take pictures of some things, mostly the geysirs. I think the waterfall pictures came out decently. And sometimes, my cell phone actually took better pictures than my DSLR because it has a wide-angle lens. A wide-angle lens is on my next-to-buy camera lens list. For that reason, I’m including both DSLR pics and phone pics in these entries, and I’ll note which device took each set of pics in case anyone is curious.

The good thing about going to Iceland when we did was it was before peak tourist season, and the country hasn’t been opened to travelers for very long. There are also no cruises currently, so the waterfall and the other tourist sites were not crowded with tour buses and cruise passengers. There were a few people there, but there really wasn’t a lot anywhere, so it almost felt like many touristy things, mostly to ourselves.

It was pretty cold at Gullfoss, mostly because of the wind and the mist from the waterfall. I had never seen Gullfoss before, so it was my first time seeing it as well. It’s such a beautiful waterfall. Justin and I hiked the trail down to the falls, it was drizzling and cold, and we both were dressed in mostly winter clothes.

Here are the pics from it, and yes, the water is really that blue. Glacier Blue is such a beautiful color, and that’s pretty much the color of the water in Iceland, especially at the falls.

But before we get to my pics, I want to say FUCK DRONES. Everywhere we went, people were flying drones to take pictures. And most places in Iceland have a “no drones” rule that obnoxious tourists seem to ignore. Drones and their owners are fucking obnoxious. The sounds drones make are obnoxious and take away from the entire experience at serene places like waterfalls. I do NOT want to be in somebody’s drone footage so that they can get 10000 likes on Instagram or YouTube or wherever. And if an idiot is flying a drone [as most tourists with them are], they can hurt somebody or an animal or even nature. Also, some of the more touristy things are located on private property or near people’s houses, which is not respectful. Fuck Drones and the people who choose to use them. They take away from the entire experience in Iceland, and it just pisses me off to no end that people think that rules do not apply to them.

That being said, onwards to my pictures that WERE NOT taken with a drone.

These were all taken with my DSLR:

These were taken by my phone:

Justin and I by the falls [taken by my phone]

We went to the overpriced gift shop at Gullfoss after we saw the falls. Justin bought a hat because he left his in Texas. Ironically, I left the hoodie I intended to wear to Iceland in Justin’s car. I bought an overpriced New York hoodie at JFK airport, and it became the hoodie I wore the most in Iceland and is now one of my favorite hoodies.  I bought my first Iceland Chocolate Bar there. It was a chocolate toffee bar. It was incredible. This started an obsession with Icelandic chocolate that lasted the entire trip. I think I bought like twenty chocolate bars home with me. MOSTLY to give to people as souvenirs. But since I don’t know people’s personal chocolate preferences, I had to buy several different flavors. Anyhow, the US does NOT know what good chocolate is. Iceland does. Justin bought a shot glass. He likes to collect them from the different places we visit.

After we checked out Gullfoss, we went to Haukadalur, which is where Strokkur Geysir is located. The Geysir area had a lot of geothermal features such as geysirs and mud pools. It was like a mini Yellowstone national park to me. Strokkur Geysir is pretty much the Old Faithful of Iceland. It pretty much erupts every 6 to 10 minutes and erupts an average of 49 to 66 feet. We watched it erupt a few times.

These are DSLR pics:

Phone Pics:

It was pretty cold and pretty rainy as we were leaving Strokkur, but we still wanted to do something. We decided to drive to a nearby waterfall called Faxi. I really had to go to the water closet as we got there, and there was a restaurant that said it had a WC. We parked the car, and I walked up to the restaurant. The doors were locked when I tried them, so I started walking back down to the falls figuring it was closed. As I was walking away, a little boy, he couldn’t have been any older than maybe 6 or 7, opened the door. I asked him if there was a WC. I don’t think he understood my English. He got his mother from the kitchen, and I just felt really awkward and weird as I was in there. I asked her if there was a WC, and she rudely told me, yes, but the restaurant was closed, and I couldn’t use it. I don’t think it would’ve been so awkward had her young son not opened the door to this strange American tourist. But that entire incident made me feel all sorts of weird and uncomfortable.

From there, I walked down to Faxi, which is a waterfall located on the Tungufljót river. I don’t think it’s as well-known as Gullfoss, but it was a pretty waterfall. Justin and I had the place to ourselves.

DSLR pics:

Phone Pics:

I still had to pee, but we still had a lot of energy and checked google to see if there was anything else we could do in the area. We were thinking of checking out Brúarfoss waterfall, which was all nearby, and we even drove to the place where it was. However, the only way to get there was through a hike. The hike took 3-4 hours round trip, according to the sign outside the trail. Apparently, there used to be a short path that led to the waterfall, but it was a trail located on private property, and visitors trashed the trail, so the owners closed it, understandably. By then, it was close to 8:00 pm, and if we hiked the trail, we wouldn’t be done until close to 11 pm. I was exhausted because I hadn’t slept since the night before we left for Iceland, and I still had to pee. It was all raining pretty hard and cold, so we decided against doing the hike and instead went back to our cabin.

We decided to check out our geothermal hot tub at the cabin. As you are supposed to do before getting into any geothermal water in Iceland, we showered beforehand. However, I forgot to take off my silver infinity symbol bracelet that Justin for me for our first Christmas together back in 2011. Silver reacts badly to geothermal water, and it turned a rainbow of colors. Think the colors in oil. So it is currently sitting in a mixture of vinegar and baking soda as an attempt to clean off the tarnish. We were in the hot tub for a while, just talking and enjoying the contrast of the cold air and the pouring rain to the hot of the hot tub. However, we lost track of time, and it doesn’t get dark in Iceland, and we eventually realized it was after midnight.

We got out of the hot tub and dried ourselves off. I took another shower [I took SO many showers in the 24 hours we were there because that shower was amazing] and then went to bed. The cabin had blackout curtains all over, so you couldn’t even tell that it was still light out once the curtains were closed.

I fell asleep almost instantly. I basically hadn’t slept for at least twenty-four, if not more, hours at that time. I was trying to check Instagram as I usually do before I go sleep, and I couldn’t even keep my eyes open. I think I fell asleep in probably ten or fewer minutes, which is really amazing for a horrible insomniac like me.

The next day it was off to more waterfalls and Vik.







2 thoughts on “Iceland Day One: Arrival, Covid Testing, Gullfoss Waterfall, Strokkur Geysir & Faxi Waterfall”

  1. Nice writeup! Personally my favorite Live album is Throwing Copper. Also, I totally agree on the annoying drones thing, we’ve run into that several times during our hikes with some jackass flying a drone from the top of the peak we’re trying to hike to. I think the Gullfoss also appeared at the beginning of the movie Prometheus, which unfortunately was a pretty mediocre sequel to Alien. Those are some great pictures, looking forward to seeing more!

    1. Prometheus was a pretty shitty sequel, I actually saw that one.

      I have to say that personally, I am not a Live fan. I know a lot of their music and I wouldn’t say I hate it, but I prefer grungier bands 😉

      And thank you 🙂

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