our iceland stopover // the golden circle

The second day of our Iceland stopover was reserved for our self-guided tour of the so-called “Golden Circle” route. Traditionally, this route is a one day trip, ca. 3-4 hours of driving, and covers at least three top stops: Þingvellir National Park (anglicized as Thingvellir), the geothermal fields and the Strokkur geyser in the Haukadalur region, and Gulfoss waterfall. After some online research and Martin’s skilled navigation, we organized our own route including a few more destinations. We planned for an early start to minimize tourist bus encounters along the way, but ended up sleeping in a bit and only left mid-morning. You’ll find our route and destinations in the Google map below. Unfortunately I don’t remember now all the driving times between the stops, but in the end, even though we left later, we still had enough time at each destination without feeling too rushed, and we made back to Reykjavik just as the sun was setting so the day wasn’t too long.

Þingvellir National Park
Our first stop was, of course, for a cinnamon bun and coffee in Reykjavik (more on that in another post), before beginning the drive out to Þingvellir National Park (see also wikipedia for a cool aerial photo of the fault) along Þingvallavatn lake. The road and accompanying landscape was easy to drive and wide open. We arrived to the visitor’s center around 10.15am and, after taking a quick look around, we decided it was worth it to pay for parking and walk around a bit to see the visitor center, viewpoint over the lake at Hakið, and around the paths into the Almannagjá fault. Along the way, we also saw a cool waterfall (also featured on Game of Thrones).

Haukadalur geothermal geysers
Following our walk through the park, we hopped back into the car to drive on to the Geysir geothermal area, arriving around 12.45pm. And, our happy backseat traveler took a nap and was ready for another ride in the Ergo as we walked through the hot pots and geysers. We all especially enjoyed standing around and waiting for the giant Strokkur geyser to blow every few minutes.

Note: There is a very nice visitor center and shop near the geysers with some good lunch options. As we were heading for a late lunch at another stop, we didn’t try it out, but it is good to know.

And, it was so cool to drive through the open landscape and see giant ice caps on the horizon. I’m so used to glaciers and mountain peaks that the ice caps looked so alien to me.

Gulfoss Waterfall
Our next stop around 2.oopm was at the powerful and majestic Gulfoss Waterfall. We laughed our way through the cool mist and starred in awe at the falls.

Friðheimar Farm
Following the Gulfoss Waterfall, we drove on for a late lunch at Friðheimar Farm. We were very lucky as we hadn’t booked in advance, but were able to squeeze in for lunch around 3.15pm. Reese enjoyed walking the massive tomato greenhouse while we waited for a table. Once seated, we enjoyed amazingly delicious tomato tasting menu of soup and bread, tortilla pizza, and homemade ravioli. Oddly, Reese was particularly into eating fresh basil off the plant at our table. It was the perfect late afternoon stop. If you go, definitely consider making reservations in advance.

Skálholt Cathedral & Kerið Crater
After lunch we drove on through the wide open countryside passing happy Icelandic horses, sheep, and beautiful buildings and Skálholt Cathedral on the way to Kerið Crater. I think Reese was sleeping at this point so we decided not to get out and look inside the church, but even the architecture was cool from the outside.

Once you get to the Crater you have to pay a small fee to walk around or down in. It is worth it. I loved the red of the lava rock, especially compared to the rest of the landscape on a clear day.

For the final leg of our journey, we were inspired to go off the beaten path by I Heart Reykjavik’s Golden Circle guide and took the Nesjavalllaleið back to Reykjavik. Along this route you drive by on the opposite side of the Þingvallavatn lake near the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station, which you can visit if you have time. This road is dirt and a bit rough at times, as well as steep, but the views are otherworldly, especially along the huge hot water pipelines headed back towards Reykjavik. It was perfectly passable in late summer, but likely not in winter. We also passed by the Ion Adventure Hotel, and I would love to come back here and stay sometime.

All in all, it was a day to remember. So many unique and beautiful spots along the route to spend more time exploring in the future. Take an Iceland stopover; you can see so much in just a few days.

our iceland stopover // the blue lagoon

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a few months since our short Iceland stopover on the way home from Oregon in mid-September as those fun-filled few days are still fresh in my memory.

Since it was one of the better itineraries to Portland, we took advantage of the Iceland Air flight to stop for 3 days in Reykjavik on our way back home. I also thought it would be a good way of easing R’s jet lag while still allowing us to see a few new sights, and it turned out to be the perfect way to ease back home from time with family in the States.

We arrived in Reykjavik early on a Thursday morning, around 6.30 am and headed straight for our rental car. It was a chilly morning but the sky was clear and the sunrise colorful. After picking up our car, and identifying and installing the least gross of the available car seats, we headed straight for the infamous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, a short drive away, as we had already reserved one of the first swimming slots at 8.00 am. At the time, I figured little else would be open that early that would keep us awake and floating in a geothermal pool would probably feel great after a long flight. And, as it turns out, it was one the best decision of the stopover and I would highly recommend the same schedule for anyone arriving at the airport early in the morning. Read more

charming chamonix & l’aiguille du midi


A few weeks ago, when the fall colors really started turning and I was finally starting to recover from being sick, we spent the weekend in Chamonix, France. Martin and Reese picked me up from work and after a quick dinner stop we headed south. One of Martin’s acquaintances from the world of rugby was staying in Chamonix for a few more days at a place owned by his sister’s family and we were invited to join. I was a little on the fence about the whole weekend as I still wasn’t feeling amazing and didn’t really know what to expect, but Martin drove and we visited and listened to podcasts and the 3.5 hours went by quite quickly.

Read more

holland holiday

The Trip


Our recent family trip to Amsterdam in mid-August was the perfect way to enjoy the end of summer as well as celebrate our anniversary and Martin’s birthday. Initially, we planned the trip around the possibility of seeing Jason Isbell in concert in Utrecht but, though the tickets were really inexpensive, a Wednesday night concert seemed like it might be a difficult date to manage considering our work schedules. The tickets were so cheap though (EUR 15) that we bought tickets just in case. In the end, it turned out to be the best motivator to actually plan a short trip. Martin strives to visit a new country each year and, though he has technically been to Amsterdam’s airport before, this trip also crossed off his new country list for 2016.

Read more

chilly copenhagen getaway

While we certainly cannot complain about our vacation schedules here in Switzerland, nor our proximity to so many wonderful destinations, we still get stuck in the regular routine of jobs and weekends full of errands and catch-up at home just like we would if living anywhere else. Read more

exploring ephesus

IMG_4412-4All the days of sun and water allowed us to rest up for our next adventure–exploring ancient Ephesus (Efes). At first I was a little hesitant to leave the sound of the waves behind to drive several hours through rural Turkey to get to the city ruins, but Martin was eager to go and so we set out one morning after breakfast. Read more

take me back to turkey

Last month’s trip to Turkey was the first vacation we’ve taken since our honeymoon in August 2011 which was longer than 3 days, not scheduled around proximity to a hammer ring, and did not involve visiting family. Now don’t get me wrong, we have taken many longer vacations, and I absolutely love seeing family and friends anywhere and I don’t even mind a well-planned trip including hammer throwing, but this time it really was so nice to just have more than a week of sun-filled, easy relaxation. Read more

scenic scotland

Scotland may have many dreary, dark and rainy days, but when the sun shines Scotland really sparkles. As you can see have from the above photo of Edinburgh, we lucked out. Yes, we took shelter from some serious downpours, but the rest of time it was gorgeous, and perfect weather for wandering, shopping, tea drinking, and taking in some historic sites. Read more