See, I already had a love-hate relationship with Iceland by the time we got here.
|View of the Blue Lagoon from the approach to KEF.|
[Full disclosure, this post is going to have some serious first-world spoiled rotten whine in it, because you can't really complain (even honestly) about being able to travel to amazing places without sounding like a bit of an asshole.]
Typical gorgeous road trip view
if you are unlucky enough to be in Iceland when it's storming.
|Road trip views of the ocean and shoreline in Iceland before the weather turned.|
We hadn't booked our flights back to the US from Europe, but I knew that Icelandair had free stopovers for up to 7 days in Iceland, and I knew that Chase Ultimate Rewards points could book on Iceland Air, so I figured we'd just go with this option and do some time in Iceland on our route back just like so many of our friends and family who've shown us their awesome photos. First mistake -- I waited 'til about 2 weeks before we needed to fly to Iceland and called Chase Ultimate Rewards because I couldn't figure out how to book the free stopover on points online. Turns out, they couldn't either. Apparently, it's a benefit that's only available for people actually paying real cash to Icelandair. I could have called and researched and tried to solve the problem but I decided that was too much trouble, so we just booked one leg to Reykjavik on the Chase Ultimate Rewards points on Icelandair. And then, I built in a week stay for us to enjoy Iceland (without doing any research on hotels, mind you) and booked our flight from KEF to the US on airline miles after that week.
Stereotypical $110+USD a room night, in-room sink,
but down the hall for shared toilet and shower
But, I didn't. So when I went to start reserving hotels, my jaw dropped at the prices, and I quickly downgraded to guesthouses and hostels with shared bathrooms, which, in most cases were still some of the most expensive lodging per night we'd purchased for the entire sabbatical year (including amazing suites and glorious ocean views and what not in places off the beaten track in Asia and South America). In fairness, we did cheat a bit and used hotel points and Chase points in big expensive cities this year, so it's not a true apples to apples comparison, but even so, I was super shocked to learn that rural Iceland is *much* more expensive than rural Japan when booked late on our seat-of-the-pants-travel-plan (like 2X for a basic room for 2 in Iceland sharing a bathroom with multiple guests vs. enjoying a very private en-suite bathroom for half the price in a rural Japanese business hotel).
|Waiting for the Geyser to erupt...|
|Beautiful Icelandic horses in the wind...|
Oh, did I mention the weather? Yeah. Turns out, Iceland is green and beautiful for a reason. Our day of arrival was gorgeous, but we'd come from Malta so we figured this was normal and didn't take too many pictures. Since then... well, it looks like we're here for a week of serious wind and rain and cold. Did you know Iceland is the windiest place in the world where people actually live? Yeah. It's true. Thankfully, we have rain gear and hats and wool socks and gloves from some of our other travels, because it had not occurred to me that 21 hours of sun a day in Iceland would be anything other than glorious Summer. I mean it was almost 25C in Copenhagen when we were there! But the high today was 8C (46F), and it rained *all* day.
|The face of the Eurasian tectonic plate from the rift walkway...|
|Posing, with the famous Icelandic hot dog... (just fine, not mind-altering).|