Iceland is hot hot hot right now, and I don’t mean the temperature. I think 1 in 3 people I know have traveled to Iceland in the last 5 years. Welp, I jumped on the bandwagon and now I totally know why. Let me humor you…
- It is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.
- The people are so incredibly nice and thoughtful.
- The Icelandic hotdog is orgasmic.
While I highly encourage a trip to Iceland to indulge for yourself, you might consider waiting until they have the infrastructure to support all of us. The locals shared their stories of both excitement and fear of the increasing tourist destination. At this point, it is fairly untouched by man. Sure there are waterfalls with somewhat of ‘steps’ built in to get to the top, but for the most part, you are really off-roading to get to the most scenic parts of the country. Something I hope stays that way for a long time.
We stayed 6 days and 5 nights, but really we could have eliminated an extra night spent in the godly expensive city of Reykjavik. If you go into the trip with the expectation that you will spend no less than $40 a meal, then you coo. I mean think about it, they have to get everything shipped in…they can’t really grow anything on the land. (Luckily we had the pleasure of celebrating Beer’s 30th birthday after the ban while in town.) It all makes expensive sense.
A few tips from our jam-packed, yet perfectly relaxing itinerary:
1. We flew Icelandair, and if you forget your previous decade’s earphones to watch TV in the seatback, you can fork over $8 USD. If you are hungry, you can buy your food for $10 USD—no free snacks for you! Overall it was a decent airline and we found a good flight deal.
2. Most flights are going to drop you at about 4-8 a.m. local time from North America. To rudely ignore the jetlag, I suggest going right to the Blue Lagoon when you land. We rented a car and snagged it from the airport and spent the next three hours with our bodies in a balmy 100* germ-infested bathtub rubbing mud on our faces with about 75 of our closest friends.
But seriously, the Blue Lagoon deserves its own paragraph. The lagoon is pretty, and warm, and a must-see I agree, but it is not all glamorous. Aside from it being right next to a plant with smokestacks of some sort ruining the view, it is quite expensive for what you get. The changing rooms, while organized as best they can be, are kind of a cluster. Water everywhere, small lockers that can’t fit winter coats, not a whole lot of space to change while hundreds of people come and go and again, water everywhere. We invested in the towel, robe and flip flop package – worth it! (at least in March) The ‘relaxation room’ likely is a magical place when there is no drunk, angry, lying old men. When you walk downstairs it is a free for all with hooks for your belongings. Don’t forget a water case for your phone and ladies, keep your hair up! The food at the restaurant on site, Lava, was tasty with cute décor. Only thing missing was…well, people’s clothes. (You were allowed to eat in your bathing suit/robe) If you want to do a real Icelandic lagoon…read on.
3. Car rental was clutch. Though not until after we went on our non-requested scavenger hunt to find our car in the rental lot at the airport. We stayed in Reykjavik for two nights in this airbnb perfectly situated walking from the hustle and bustle, with easy street parking and plenty of space. The following morning we drove along the South Coast. You do have to pay to park at some places, but it is an all-day pass, so just make friends with people leaving and then pay it forward.
4. The South Coast drive with our own car made this part of the trip really flexible and relaxing. We didn’t feel rushed to get to one place, or leave another – everything was on our time. Be sure to visit:
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Skogafoss Waterfall
- Sólheimasandur plane wreck
- Vik Black Sand Beach
- Bra fence
- Seljavallalaug 100 year-old natural pool
5. Once in Vik, we visited a few local places. Few = the only ones available. It was slim pickings, but boy were they phenomenal.
Local brewery: Smiðjan Brugghús
Family restaurant: Halldorskaffi
After a day of chasing waterfalls, we tucked ourselves in to the cutest airbnb ever: Götur Cottage 1. I would live here. You can’t ever forget waking up to the breathtaking hills of Iceland, and the peaceful sounds of…nothing! While we didn’t get to meet Simba the family dog, we sure loved our stay here, tucked away in the middle of nowhere. Speaking of middle of nowhere, try to arrive before nightfall.
6. We woke up in Vik and went on a volcano ice cave tour! We booked through Glacier Guides and it was perfectly organized, worth the cost, and frankly quite the experience! I would highly recommend for a winter activity. We were there in March and it was starting to melt, so plan accordingly. You offroad to get to the glacier (duh), so if you get weezy easily, take some dramamine. We met for our van in downtown Vik at the Ice Cave Bistro, which had some tasty pastries.
On the drive back to Reykjavik there weren’t too many options for food. We had purchased some sandwich fixings earlier in the week and they came in handy during our South Coast adventures.
7. Our next stop was back to Reykjavik. Unfortunately in winter, the other half of the country is closed because of bad road conditions…we will go back during summer! While in downtown, we stayed at the Ion City Hotel. It was centrally-located, decently-priced, good-sized room for two and quite contemporary feeling. Our first night back to the city we signed up for a Northern Lights tour through Viator (Gray Line Iceland) and the first night it was cancelled because of weather. Second night two additional groups stood outside for 2 hours waiting in the cold and the bus never showed up. Apparently it was cancelled and they forgot to tell us. I fought, fought hard, and won. Don’t use them. Opt for what my friend did and book the private jeep excursion, they give you hot cocoa too.
8. Now you know someone who actually stayed in the bubble. Yours truly booked the Golden Circle Tour and it was AMAZING. Our guide made the trip enjoyable and kept us laughing the whole time.
First stop: Thingvellir National Park
Second stop: Haukadalur Geysir
Third stop: Gullfoss Waterfall
Fourth stop: Secret Lagoon
Fifth stop: Restaurant Mika
Sixth stop: The bubbles
Wind is strong on this adventure, layer up, even if it doesn’t feel like you need to. I preferred the Secret Lagoon over the Blue Lagoon- less crowded, cheaper, muddy, felt more natural. Restaurant Mika was super tasty, great hospitality, and they make their own chocolate! The bubbles were exquisite, complete with a view of the Northern Lights! You have a short walk to a shared bathroom and each bubble has a heater for winter time and an electrical outlet should you need it.
9. And finally back to Reykjavik where we walked around and checked out some cool places that are def go-back-worthy:
– Bastard Brew and Food
– Sæta Svínið Gastropub
– American Bar
– The Drunk Rabbit
– Apotek Kitchen
– Boston Reykjavik
– Lebowski Bar
– The English Pub
– Café Paris
– Sandholt Bakery
– Bryggjan Brugghús
– Harpa music center
Some pro tips:
. Bring your own toilet paper or plan to purchase some at public stops.
. Try the Gull beer.
. They don’t really accept tips, and were kind of awkward when we tried.
. Airport transfer was easily booked through Airport Direct with simple logistics.
. Upon return of our rental car, we could not fill up our gas tank because our credit cards with no international transaction fee did not have pins set-up. Said pins are REQUIRED at all gas stations in Iceland.
. Icelandic customs ask you detailed questions before departing the country, the hardest ones I have ever been asked! “How much did you pay to park at Skogafoss Waterfall?”
Friendly reminder that the middle seat gets both armrests.