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Visit Iceland in 24+ Hours? You Bet!

Can a visit of 24+ hours to Iceland be conducted resulting in any level of satisfaction or understanding about this island nation.  I think the answer is yes as to satisfaction.  As for understanding?  A great deal can be learned.  However a visit of such time leads to many more questions. The short trip reveals that Iceland is worthy of a much longer visit and conducted at different times of the year.

Will a volcano erupt during your stay? 

It did.

Iceland Volcano
Volcano erupts in the afternoon.

Can you learn something about the island for which you were clueless? 

Yes.  Horses.  Iceland is horse country. It is horse country to a level I have never experienced.  These horses are Viking horses – the purest of lines in the world.  I had no idea. Horses are everywhere.  On the coast, under waterfalls, on the high planes, and in the mountains.

Horses on Highway 30
Horses on South Shore on Highway 1.
Horses on ranch on Highway 30.

Are the waterfalls as powerful and magnificent as suggested?

Yes, which is an understatement.

Drífandifoss on South Shore Highway 1.
Skógafoss on South Shore.
Gullfoss on Highway 35.

Are there large lakes and magnificent National Parks?

Yes, many.

Þingvallavatn lake at Thingvellir National Park.

Are there eerie landscapes and a remote island reachable by ferry? 

Of course.

Black Sand Beach from Dyrhólaey looking west to Solheimafjara. Black hump in distance is Mt. Pétursey.
The Vestmannaeyjabær archipelago off the south coast. Heimaey is the largest island and has a population of 4,414.

Are there places you would think you are otherwise not far from home?

The answer is a partial yes.  If home is Idaho, yes.  If home is Kauai, no.

The farmland and horse ranches between highway 35 and 30.
Stora-Jarlhetta (943 meters 3,093 feet) is the high peak in the distance. Or is it Idaho with the Lost River Range in the distance?

Travel Plan?


On this day Linda and I arrived from Seattle just before 6AM local time.  We had 9 hours before we could check into the Hotel Apotek in downtown Reykjavik.  We decided to lay out a plan that would cover 300+ miles of driving and get us to the hotel before dinner-time.

However truth be told, we created it on the fly in a coffee shop near the airport. Our plan has us covering the entire 140 miles of what is known as the Colden Circle. The plan has us driving the south coast out past Dyrhólaey and back, which adds 170 miles round trip.  More information on the Golden Circle is located [here].

What About Reykjavík?

We arrive in Reykjavík at dinner time.  The sun has been with us since our arrival.  It will stay with us through our departure.  At this time of year the sun never drops below 5 degrees above the horizon.

Panorama of Reykjavík seen from Perlan.
A town square across the street from our hotel in the early morning. It was packed with people 12 hours earlier,
A bar next to the harbor.
The bike path, pedestrian walk, and utilitarian looking residential buildings ring the harbor.
The harbor 2 miles from the city center, looking back to town.

Reykjavík is the capital and largest city of Iceland. It has a population of about 140,000 people.  At 64 degrees north latitude, it is the northernmost capital of a sovereign country in the world. Reykjavík was first settled in the 870’s and officially founded in 1786.

— Jeff’s Thoughts and Other Worthless Trivia —

I would like to visit Iceland again.  However, I would come on the shoulder (before or after) the summer tourist season.  The busloads of people descending on the island is overwhelming and takes away greatly from the experience,  However, the natural beauty of Iceland is astonishing.

Faux Everest

In one location, Linda noticed that the route to the top of the falls reminded here of the infamous Traffic Jam to the Top of Mt. Everest photo.

Traffic Jam to the Top of Everest. Courtesy Svati Kirsten Narula.
Traffic Jam to the Top of Skógafoss (Faux Everest). By Linda Lubeck

The Airport

Keflavík International Airport is located 30 miles southwest of Reykjavík. The airport was originally built by the U.S. Military in WWII.  It has two 10,000 foot long and 200 foot wide runways.  They were built to handle emergency landings for the largest aircraft in the world (including the U.S. Space Shuttle). Iceland is an original member of NATO, but has no standing military.  An agreement was made such that the airport would operate as a U.S. Airforce base and a civilian airport.  The agreement was in effect from 1951 to 2006 (when the US closed its base).

The flight from Seattle to Keflavík International Airport is covers 3,618 miles (3,142 nautical miles).  It includes flying over southern Greenland.  The sun of July 9th is behind me for the entire trip and its rays do not go away.  That is until we make our turn towards Iceland and the coast of Greenland appears in the distance.  It is at the point the rays of the sun move to being just in front and left of me. 

The scene is stunning (to me at least).  I mark down the longitude and latitude.  As best I can tell, before me are the Pourquoi-pas peaks and glacier.

Pourquoi-pas peaks and glacier.


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