Iceland is definitely going to be one of the hottest(er...coldest?) destinations of 2017. With WOW Air and IcelandAir offering stopovers and cheap flights, it's hard to resist making a trip out of it. This country has so much to offer, and explore. Here's a bit of what was on my itinerary and what I did in Iceland!
Where I stayed: Hlemmer Square. Cannot recommend this place enough! Really chic and cozy lobby, with a bar and restaurant(although I did not eat there). Some of the nicest and most spacious hostel dorms I ever encountered. Free coffee and water and sometimes snacks in the lobby. The nicest and most accommodating staff. Very central location, on the main street in downtown. Overall, just a big win in my book.
Day 1: Arrive in Reykjavik. My WOW Air flight arrived at Keflavik airport at 4am. The airport was easy to navigate and I made my way to my pre-booked flybus to Reykjavik. That took about 45 minutes. Boarded another shuttle from their bus terminal in town to my hostel. Arrived in my hostel around 6am. Again, major props to Hlemmer Square for letting me check in early, as I passed out on my bunk for an hour 'til I got up to get ready for a tour I had booked.
I had booked this tour through Grayline with the intention to visit the waterfalls which were high on my agenda. The first stop was at Seljalandsfoss, and it was truly spectacular. Next was the black sand beach, Reynisfjara. The waves are VERY strong and VERY big here so I did not go near the water. The rock formations along the cliff are almost otherworldly. We stopped in the town of Vik for lunch and I managed to grab a few photos there. After, was our last stop Skogafoss, the waterfall I was most excited about seeing. By this time, around 4pm, since it is winter, was already starting to get dark, so I don't have many photos of this waterfall. I did go back here on another tour so I was pretty happy about that. The only issue I had with the whole day was the rain(which lasted all day) kept getting water all over my camera lens, but it was worth it to see all these things in one day! We were returned back to Reykjavik around 6:30pm.
This tour, while only 3 hours, packed in a lot of what I wanted to see in Reykjavik city center. I could've done my own walking tour but this was so quick and easy to see what I wanted to see in the perfect amount of time. The guide gave us a lot of history about the city and an insight into Icelandic culture as well. I love the unique style of buildings, the older look along with modern buildings and sculptures. We arrived at Sun Voyager at the perfect sunset time and I was so happy with those pictures! That, and Hallgrimskirka were probably my favorite spots on tour.
This late night tour was really fun! Seeing the northern lights is a bit of a gamble. It depends on a few factors, like weather, cloud cover, visibility, etc. If you book a northern lights tour keep in mind it may be canceled if the weather is poor. We headed out towards þingvellir National Park in hopes of a gap in the clouds that would let us see the aurora. I was able to pick up some of the lights on my camera at this spot but wasn't able to see it with the naked eye. We stopped here at the park also and had hot chocolate and a traditional Icelandic pastry called Kleina, kind of reminded me of a less sweet non-glazed donut. We kept driving and stopping, the guide looking on the weather maps to try and get the best place for us to see it. Towards 1:30 am we had started to drive back towards reykjavik when we saw the lights again, more visible this time. This was the first time I could truly see them with the naked eye and not just picking up the light on my camera. A tripod is essential for this tour if you plan on getting pictures.
I booked this tour through Grayline again because these 2 destinations were a must for me, and I didn't have enough time to do each on their own seperate day. In hindsight, I'm happy with my choice because I felt it was the perfect amount of time to do everything. Departing Reykjavik at 7am, we arrived to the Blue Lagoon right when they opened at 8am. The facilities are very nice and futuristic almost, with a magnetic type bracelet to unlock your lockers. I was a little nervous here because I knew I would want to take pictures but didn't want my electronics to get wet. I felt a lot better knowing you could get in and out of the locker as many times as you wanted. It was so surreal to be there in the pitch black darkness of a winter morning-almost like being on another planet. It started getting lighter around 10:30 am and that's when I was taking all my pictures. I could either get the shuttle at 11am or 1pm back to Reykjavik and I rushed to get the 11am shuttle as I did not want to wait 2 more hours to join the Golden Circle tour. I did have an hour to grab lunch in between. Then for the Golden Circle we stopped first in pingvellir national park. Stunning views, as well as you can walk between the fissures that have ruptured due to the split in the European/American tectonic plates under the earth. Next was Strokkur geysir; I wasn't as interested in this stop, but still nonetheless beautiful. After it was followed by a stop at Gulfoss, another waterfall I badly wanted to see. We managed to get there just before it started getting dark, and there were a couple different viewpoints from which you could watch the massive falls. Our guide was incredibly knowledgable, and I love that all the larger companies have wifi on board!
Glacier Hike and Waterfalls
Okay, hiking Solheimajokull glacier was definitely one of the highlights of my trip(I mean, it's hard to chose when every day is amazing!). I love how Arctic Adventures has small group sizes for this, it was me, our guide, and a couple. We were the first group out on the ice and I just looked around at the vast space and all the snow. Iceland definitely feels so surreal all of the time. We were given a lot of information and instructions on how to use the ice pick(mostly for balance), and how to walk in crampons(metal spikes to attach to your boots). The actual hike was mostly flat, except for some areas where we actually had to walk upwards to enter the glacier. I think some of the highlights were exploring the caves and crevices formed in the glacier. It was a little claustrophobic but so amazing to see the ice so blue and swirled into that formation over time. It truly took my breath away. We were on the ice for an hour and a half/an hour and 45 minutes, and then our tour bus came and picked us back up for some stops on the way back to Reykjavik which means...
We stopped at Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss on the way back. I'm SO glad we did because I got way better pictures at each versus the other day when we stopped there in the rain. They looked completely different covered in snow. At Seljalandsfoss I even hiked around behind the waterfall, which I would have not been able to do on my first tour there due to the rain making it too slippery. It truly was the most stunning to see and to hear the roar of the crashing water. Our guide was very nice and provided crampons again so we wouldn't slip, so necessary!
Overall, Iceland was just a magical experience that is hard to find just the right words to describe it. I made new friends, explored so much nature, took about a million pictures, got lost in the moment, smiled uncontrollably, and was filled with so much joy. I plan on coming back again to this beautiful otherworldly place.