Iceland – Day Two: Craters, Waterfalls, Geysers, Lagoons, and Hussein the Turkish Cook

It is now crystal clear to me why the streets of downtown Reykjavik are so peaceful and quiet early in the morning. True to European culture, people stay up all night and have little reason to wake at the crack of dawn. With over 20 hours of daylight during the summer months in Iceland, it can be challenging to call it a day; so the drinks keep flowing and the music continues until the wee hours of the morning. I believe I heard a cover of What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes around 2am.

Today was our 11-hour Golden Circle excursion and with a 8:30am pick up, we started our day pretty early so we could grab breakfast before we left. We hustled across the street to Bazilika, a casual restaurant advertising breakfast from 7-11am. We were the first ones there, almost arriving before the cook even, since he still had his jacket and hat on. He wasn’t ready and neither was his kitchen, however he was friendly and willing to get us fed before our bus arrived. While he cooked, we got to know each other a bit. Hussein is from Turkey and has lived in Iceland for 9 years. With a booming tourism industry, many Europeans flocked to Iceland for service industry jobs and Hussein was one of them. He whipped us up “white” coffee, cheese omelettes, french fries, and ham and cheese paninis. This was the first time I’ve ever had an omelette with fries on the side, but who would ever complain about that. It was delicious.

During breakfast, the restaurant received their morning sourdough bread delivery from a local bakery and Syd and I split the first slice while it was still warm. It was heavenly! Next, along came a piece of fried Halloumi cheese straight from the grill and on to our plates from Hussein’s spatula, just because he wanted us to try it. Halloumi is a brined Turkish cheese made from sheep’s milk much like Greek Kasseri cheese which Saganaki (or Opa! cheese) is made with. While he had our full attention, he also asked us for feedback on his new menu design. This friendly local encounter was the best way to start our day and Hussein set the tone for an incredible excursion leaving us with a quote that stayed with us, “Hearty breakfast, hearty soul!” Thank you, Hussein!

The Golden Circle Tour began with a stunning walk between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates in Thingvellir National Park where we spent an hour taking in the beauty of the mid-Atlantic ridge.

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From there we visited Geysir geothermal area to view the bubbling ponds and steam vents along with the second largest geyser in the world, active for the last 10,000 years. It shoots water 98 feet into the air every 5-10 minutes, yet isn’t quite as predictable as Old Faithful. This water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit coming right from underneath the ground.

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The next two stops were Gulfoss Waterfall, a beautiful 105-foot fall and Kerid Crater, a 180-foot, 3,000 year old crater with a magical blue-green lake at the bottom.

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Along the way to these spectacular sites, we stopped at a farm to play with the Icelandic horses. They were adorably sweet and we loved spending time with them. They quite easily stole our hearts.

Last stop…the Blue Lagoon, complete with wine and silica mud masks. It was breathtaking!

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After a long day of sightseeing, we were famished and ended the day with this deliciousness from Veitingahúsið Hornið , the first Italian-style restaurant in Iceland…

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