I grew up traveling...a lot. Being a child of a father who was active duty in the military and a mother who is from the Philippines, I was born overseas and traveled often. Staying in the same place for too long drives me crazy. I LOVE airports, long car rides, cultural experiences, and aimless adventures. I thankfully married a guy who has acquired the same wanderlust. So when Michael and I married 2 1/2 years ago, we both placed high value in saving our money for such travels.
So why Iceland? A question that our friends and family asked when we decided to book our tickets two weeks prior to our departure. First reason: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. COME ON, who's with me that this movie completely opened their eyes to the beauty of the uncharted country (and the awesomeness of Walter Mitty longboarding down those majestic winding roads - which was actually filmed in Greenland)?! Second reason: Iceland literally haunted us. On blogs, Instagram, tumblr ... there was no escaping the multitude of Iceland photos. Iceland was calling.
On our first day in Iceland, we hopped off the plane, picked up our rental, and headed straight to Reykjavik to spend our day exploring the capitol. We made it there around noon and immediately went searching for lunch.
Something that you must know about Iceland is that even though flights are pretty inexpensive, their food isn't. Most meals will run you $20-$30. That's why we were thrilled to find the Noodle Station, where meals were around $8. The menu is simple and only includes the noodle soup that is a family recipe and you choose either beef, chicken, or vegetable.
Reykjavik is different from other capitols we've visited as there isn't much you have to see in a day - which I loved because it provided more time to wander the streets and appreciate the quaint shops and vibrantly colored buildings . Some places we did enjoy visiting was Hallgrimskirkja where you can ride the elevator to the bell tower and soak in the best view of Reykjavik. We also loved visiting Reykjavík 871±2, where we learned about the settlement of Reykjavik in one of the coolest museum exhibitions I have ever been to!
We also got some of the most delicious doughnuts from a bakery called Sandholt, hotdogs from famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (just me, Michael hates hotdogs), and coffee from Reykjavik Roasters (I'd recommend an oat milk latte).
We then headed west for our hotel for the night after picking up groceries for the week (no way we were paying $40 for every meal on this trip).
On our second day, we got up early and headed west towards the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This was our longest day of driving but the view from our drive made up for it. On the way to hike Cave Vatnshellir, we stopped by the black church in Budhir and the Landranger basaltclifs.
The cave tour in Vatnshellir was basically the only activity we paid for while in Iceland and we both loved it! The 45 minute tour takes place at the bottom of the volcano that inspired the Journey to the Centre of the Earth. It started out with us descending down a spiral staircase 35 meters below ground and walking 200 meters into a lava tube. We viewed lava formations, learned about unique bacterial growths, and experienced complete darkness. It was neat exploring this 8,000 year old cave.
We then began our long trek towards our hotel for the night, which was located near the Golden Circle.
This was our big day of exploring the Golden Circle, which is a popular tourist route because it contains the most travel related activities in Iceland that can all be viewed in a day. During our drive we visited the waterfall Gullfoss, the geothermally active valley Haukadalur (which contains the Great Geysir in which all geysers are named after), and the volcano crater Kerio. (We did all of this in between aimless drives along unpaved mountain roads).
At the end of the day, we soaked in the Secret Lagoon which is Iceland's oldest geothermal pool. The pool is heated with fresh water from a little geyser that erupts every 10 minutes (how cool is that?!) It was our first Icelandic hot spring experience, and provided a more authentic feel in comparison to the Blue Lagoon (which is a DREAM...it's just immensely more crowded than other geothermal pools you can find throughout Iceland but we'll get to that later). All that to say, we were huge fans of this hidden gem.
We headed to the South! Our first two stops consisted of visiting the waterfalls Seljalandsfoss and Skogarfoss. Like everything else we've seen in Iceland up to this point, they were both beautiful. Seljalandsfoss gives you the option of walking behind the waterfall (an option we bypassed after witnessing dozens of people coming out sopping wet after), but instead we climbed up a little overhang that gave a better view with only a subtle mist.
After leaving Skogarfoss, we made our way to find the infamous wrecked DC-3 plane. Our directions were basically as follows: after passing the waterfall, drive over the bridge with the blinking lights. After 2km, turn right down a dirt road. Drive 15 minutes on the black sanded beach and when you think you'll never find this plane, there it will be.
And there is was! After driving over the final sand dune, we saw before us the wreckage of a U.S. Navy Douglas Super DC-3. This plane crashed in 1973 on Solheimasandur's black sand beach in the South of Iceland. All of the crew survived but the plane was left abandoned. After 40 years, the wreckage still remains a surreal and eerie sight.
This was our favorite day of being in Iceland. Like if I could only choose to relive one day of this trip, this would be the day. So first, we attempted to find a mountain called Lómagnúpur. But after a failed attempt at finding it, we headed to Vatnajökull National Park to hike to the waterfall Skaftafell (yes, another waterfall. There's a lot of those guys in Iceland).
So basically you can choose two routes to hike to this waterfall: the (boring) shorter, 30 minute route and the longer (way cooler), 3 hour route. We choose the scenic route and began our trek. To sum it all up, the journey to the waterfall was far better than the destination.
After exploring the national park for most of the day, we headed to our hotel. On the way there I noticed a familiar sight. It was Lómagnúpur! After driving past it, we decided to turn around and snapped a photo together in front of the mountain. We're both happy we did as we got our favorite photo from the trip out of it.
Day 6 was mostly dedicated to exploring Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon and revisiting some spots in Vik. We were going to go on a boat tour but when we arrived at the lagoon, it was too windy and if we went out "we would sink like the Titanic" as our boat tour guide explained. So we just explored the area by foot.
We then drove to the beaches on the other side of the glacial lagoon where we saw chunks of ice washed ashore on the beach. A peculiar sight for this Florida girl. Iceland, you're one weird place and I love it!
On our last day in Iceland, we headed back towards Reykjavik. On our way to Reykjavik, we met some friendly Icelandic horses (not ponies). We stopped for lunch again at my personal favorite, Noodle Station, and grabbed one last cup of coffee from Reykjavik Roaster before heading to the Blue Lagoon.
After a busy week, a soak in 100 degree water was definitely needed...and the Blue Lagoon did not disappoint.
However, there are two things that you must know about the Blue Lagoon:
- The lagoon is actually a geothermal spa fed by water from the geothermal plant next door
- The Blue Lagoon is (by any definition) a tourist trap.
Regardless, it's an incomparable experience that I would highly recommend and was the perfect way to end our week in Iceland.
There are a few things we may have changed - like we totally would have driven the Ring Road (road that circles the entire island) but were scared of rushing the trip. But overall, we are more than happy with how our trip turned out. If you're traveling to Iceland soon and would like more advice not mentioned in this post, feel free to comment or email. We would be more than happy to help you plan your trip!