Landed at Keflavík Airport at 3:30am. Cold and cloudy, but no rain or snow – yet. The plane was 3/4s full, but only four of us are staying in Iceland. We saw the Northern Lights from the plane – a god thing since the Northern Lights forecast for is poor for the rest of my stay. It took about 3 minutes to get through passport control. No one was working at Customs so I walked through without stopping. Almost everything at the airport was still closed. Thank god there was a shuttle bus leaving in 20 minutes. Got to my hotel before 5am, and fortunately they let me check in early.
I booked this trip a few days before Christmas, which seems a very long time ago. I never got around to making any travel plans other than the flight and a hotel, and when it was time for the trip I was kind of dreading going to a cold, dark, dreary place – I felt more in the mood for someplace warm and sunny. But sometimes it’s good to have low expectations because it’s easy to exceed them. And I booked a hotel with a really nice fitness center and spa, and brought several books, so if it ended up being too miserable outside I could enjoy myself inside.
I slept very deeply for a few hours and woke up feeling very refreshed. I put on my polar gear and headed out to find something to eat and have a look around. And I had a very nice day. Reykjavík is a rather small city with a population of about 250,000. But there is a lot here – a beautiful location on the sea with mountains in the background, many parks, several museums, a gorgeous opera house, and an active fishing port. I had a very nice lunch and wandered around. I went to the visitor’s center and since I was the only customer they were able to spend plenty of time with me figuring out what my activity options are. Everywhere I went everyone was helpful and friendly. The weather was cold with rain and snow showers, but not oppressive.
Then in the evening I went to a geothermal pool near the hotel. There are several of these around the city. Laugardalslaug has two large outdoor geothermal swimming pools heated to around 86 deg. F. They are surrounded by several “hot pots” (hot tubs), a seawater pool, and a steam bath. And it was better than someplace warm and sunny. Swimming in a warm pool while it is snowing and seeing people wandering around in bathing suits when it is 30 deg. F out is a surreal experience for someone from California. I spent about three hours swimming and sitting in the various hot pots and had a really wonderful time.