Is Iceland even on your traveling radar?! I naively had dreams of a day at the Blue Lagoon, but not much beyond that. I had a picture of the milky blue waters pinned on my dream board, and I told myself, someday I would go. Much to my surprise, after booking plane tickets and committing to a week away in Iceland, I discovered the Blue Lagoon, though extremely beautiful, was not even close to the most magnificent thing my eyes would see in this country. While it's all still fresh in my head I'm going to recap our trip, and map out what I WOULD of done, knowing what I know now.
Plane tickets....this is what sealed the deal for us. You can find them dirt cheap, and the flight times are perfect. Depart in the night, arrive the next morning. It's only a 6.5 hour flight, and its direct from most airports. With Iceland being only 4 hours time difference (ahead) I figured we'd adjust quite well. The catch is, this is the only inexpensive part of Iceland. ha! They get you over there, and then everything else is crazy pricey. Hotels, restaurants, excursions, souvenirs, drinks, gas, EVERYTHING!! I will go through some options in a bit, but just know, there is no real way around it. So just count it a blessing that your plane tickets are cheap, and certainly don't screw up the dates/times and end up having to buy a whole other set of tickets (that's a story for another time) because you're gonna need your cash for the rest of the adventure.
Keflavik. The first sight of Iceland may not give you the warm fuzzies. If it's anything like our trip every time we were around the airport it was rainy and grey. Blah! My first thought was what have I gotten myself into. Maybe I could still catch a flight to Paris. I was trying to run before I even gave it a chance. Once we finally got our rental car I had the bright idea to head over to the blue lagoon to start our day. It was 10 am and we needed coffee anyways. A little geography here, the Blue Lagoon is over by the airport on the south west corner of the island. We had scheduled our date in advance for a few days into our trip, but I was in desperate need of a mood boost. (No one warns you about the grayness or the sulfur smell that hovers around KEF, consider yourself warned!) I hate to toot my own horn, but this was one of the best ideas I've had in a while. We spent the morning cozied up in the Blue Lagoon cafe with a cup of coffee staring out at the beautiful blue steamy water. Parking was free, and the coffee wasn't too overly priced. We made a rough draft of how our days would play out, and then scooted on our way.
Our next stop was to check into our first hotel, The ION adventure hotel. It was about and hour and 20 minutes away, out in the middle of no where. Perfect for seeing the Northern Lights, if you are visiting during the right season. We were just on the cusp of it, so we were hopeful. We chose the ION hotel because of the views, and the spa/hot pool. Also because we were hoping location wise it would put us a little closer to all of the things we wanted to do on the south coast, but hindsight, it didn't put us much closer than staying in Reykjavik. (It's honestly just more out in the middle of no where.) BUT I absolutely LOVED the hotel. Everything about it was so chic. When we first arrived we were greeted with glasses of Champagne, and were seated in the quaint little restaurant where we had the whole thing to ourselves. We ordered the $39 bowl of soup (yep, it's like that) and a falafel burger and split it. YUM!! So yes, lunch cost us a quick one hundo, but no need to tip, and no taxes so just take a big gulp and get used to it for the week. We then settled into our room, took a cat nap, and then headed to the pool.
Ring Road. This is the road that circles around the entire island. If you want to see the whole thing, you will need to block out at least 11 days to 2 weeks time. There is just so much to see and do!! Some people will rent sleeper vans, and travel from campsite to campsite seeing the country, but we found that this option did not actually save much money, gas is really really expensive. It does leave your schedule a bit more flexible, but seeing as most of the restaurants lean more to a fancy vibe, I appreciated having a hotel to shower and get ready in. Also the Airbnb option did not seem to be a cheaper route either. With the taxes and fees everything seemed to be about the same, so just chose what most suites your personality. We only had 6 full days in Iceland, which I originally thought would be more than enough, but left us having to make choices. We decided to discover as much as we could along the south coast and that the glacier lagoon in Jokulsarlon would be the farthest thing we could drive to (4 hours away). So we woke up day 2 and headed out!!! Packing the most activities into the first day as we were eager to get out and explore.
DAY 2. We headed east on the south coast and planned to check off as many of the sites as possible. Definitely the ones furthest out as we figured this would be our only long drive day. We grabbed a croissant from our hotel and we were on our way. We stopped at the old houses of Drangshilo, houses built into the side of a cave. Stepping back and looking at the beautiful setting of volcanic ash, green lush grass, sheep running wild, and waterfalls trickling down the sides of the mountains, I thought WOW, this is a whole other world. And our day had only begun. Next up was Skogafoss, a powerful waterfall you could clearly see from the road. We parked and walked right up to it. So breathtakingly amazing, and crazy that you can just walk about to something this beautiful for free. Off to the side there were stairs to climb to the top and view the waterfall and mountains from a new vantage point. NO WORDS!! On our way out we stopped by a food truck( Mia's Country Van) and for $29 shared an order of fish and chips. Quite possibly the best we've ever had!!
We were now only 45 minutes away from the town of Vik and the black sand beaches. As we parked our car, the sun came shinning through the clouds, and it couldn't of been more perfect. It was 50 degrees and sunny and our jackets came flying off. A little tidbit to be noted the black sand beach is just before you enter the town of Vik. We missed the turn originally and went all the way around the canyon into the town. Quickly realizing we must of missed it because we could see the rock formations way out in the distance we hopped back in the car and had to drive 15 minutes back. Ahh It's just so gorgeous, and I wished we could of spent a whole afternoon here. I would suggest to any future travelers to spend at least one night in Vik. That puts you 2 hours away from Reykjavik and 2 hours away from the Glacier Lagoon. It's perfectly in the middle.
Next stop is a name I'm not going to even try to pronounce. Fjadrargljufur. Or an insanely cool valley hidden in the middle of no where. No filter needed for this one. The green truly is that vibrant. It's a must see to believe type of thing, but here are my pictures for the time being. We viewed this canyon from three different platforms, and even hopped the ropes for a couple of risky pictures. You can blame Justin Bieber for making us break the rules. But seriously WOW! Now back in the car and another hour drive to Diamond Beach and Glacier Lagoon. Most people that travel to Reykjavik don't make it out this far, but I highly highly recommend making the trek. Here is where a hotel in Vik would come into play. We got to the Glacier Lagoon around 8pm, the sun sets at 9, so the sky was that perfect cotton candy pink. Making the blue water even more gorgeous. It was truly unreal. Seeing such large chunks of ice floating in the water, and the diamond like crystals that would float up onto the black sand. We were also lucky enough to see 3 seals swimming and playing in the water. They were so close to us, I almost felt like they might come on shore. By this time it was cold! The wind was wiping, and we were holding ICE, so yes all of the warm gear was necessary. Much different than a few hours ago when we were running around on the beach in short sleeves. Then just on the other side of the street is Diamond Beach. A full black sand beach just like the one in Vik, but with glaciers scattered all over it. Again, UNREAL!! If the sun wasn't setting, making the air so cold, I could of stayed here and explored all evening. By now it's nearly 9 pm and we were still in need of dinner, and keep in mind we are 4 hours away from our hotel. Just 20 minutes prior we had driven by a sleek hotel called the Foss hotel, Glacier Lagoon. We pulled up to see if they had a restaurant and bingo! It was a Godsend. The yummiest food, and coolest environment out in the middle of no where. Now at least we would make the long, dark, drive with full bellies. ** This day all we paid for was food and gas. So even though the food is pricey all of our activities were free!
Day 3. We slept in! Not making it back to our hotel till around 2 am the night before made our cozy beds, even cozier, and we didn't want to leave. We slowly woke up, grabbed a gourmet breakfast, two mimosas, and headed down to the spa. Enjoying our pool one last morning before we checked out of the hotel. Today's plan was to hit up the Golden Circle. The Ion hotel is situated right by the golden circle so we were excited to put in less windshield time today. First stop was snorkeling. I know what you're thinking.... you could never pay me to get into that freezing cold water. Well I said the same thing, and actually we paid over $300 to get in the water. CRAZY right?! This was one of the activities Brooks did not want to miss. Scuba diving is his thing, and two things we do every place we visit; is rent a car and scuba dive. We would be snorkeling the Silfra. A crack in the earth where two tectonic plates separated and you swim between two continents, Eurasia and North America. The water was crystal clear and you could see so deep, if I recall at least 50 feet down. There was not any sea life here, but the colors were again crazy vibrant. We were wearing dry suits (weirdest feeling) and it was actually quite comfortable. Something we just had to say we did!! ** We later learned that in the north you can scuba dive to see sea life (wolf fish), and ship wrecks, or snorkel with whales!!!!
Even though we wore dry suits my body was cold from the inside out. So I was thrilled when our next stop in the golden circle was a family run farm, Efstidalur. Known for their dairy and ice cream, we were delighted by the soup buffet as I couldn't imagine putting anything cold into my body. The restaurant was adorable, and just what we needed. Next we stopped by the Geysir which took all of 15 minutes, and then Gullfoss, one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland. We did these stops fairly quickly as we were eager to make it to Fludir, or the secret lagoon, a natural hot spring pool. We purchased some wine, and enjoyed some relaxing time together for a couple of hours. When we left we were so relaxed, and ready for dinner, that we totally forgot the last stop in the golden circle, the Kerid Crater. I'm sad we missed it, but was also so excited to get to Reykjavik and enjoy dinner in the city. We checked into our next hotel, Hotel Odinsve. We chose this spot because it was right in the heart of Reykjavik and connected to it was Iceland hot spot, Snaps! We enjoyed breakfast, dinner, and drinks here often. ** Something to note is that most restaurants take their last reservations at 9:30. It seems late, but time gets away from you. Even on the weekends food was not served much past 10.
Day 4. We woke up to sunshine!! The city is comfortable when it's sunny. There is no wind and tight roads and spaces make it extra cozy. The only plus side to the inevitable rain is that the sun will eventually peek through and you will see countless rainbows! Back in the car and off to chase more waterfalls. We headed back down the south coast. First stop was Seljalandsfoss, the large waterfall that you can actually walk behind. I think this may have been my favorite spot. I was blown away by the views from every angle. Once you’re finished here, continue walking towards your right (left if looking at the waterfall) and find the secret waterfall! For this you pass two small falls and then climb through a cave. BAM there she is! It's so romantic in there!! I wished we could of had it all to ourselves. Next we had a choice to make. Right across the road from us was a ferry to take you over to Westman Islands, the Pompeii of the North. We really wanted to check this out because it looked so gorgeous, and it was home of the largest puffin nesting site in the world. The ferry schedule just didn't work out. It was a 30 min boat ride, and would of taken up the rest of our day. I still wish we could of pulled this off, but I guess it's just one more reason to go back. Luckily we had seen puffins a few days before on the black sand beach in Vik, or we may have pushed hard to make this happen.
Back to Vik for lunch. The sun was out, and it was warm!! What a perfect afternoon in Iceland. We grabbed some brews from a local convenience store, and proceeded to make the hour long walk out to the historic plane wreck on the beach. Originally we thought this would be something we would have to skip, but it ended up being one of my favorite activities. Just as we climbed on the plane a rainbow peaked through the clouds and set up the perfect picture! Now hustle back to the car to make a reservation at 10 pm for sushi! Remember, we were 2 hours away from Reykjavik at this point. ** Biggest mistake I made here. As we were driving I kept looking up at the sky and saying to Brooks it's gonna be a clear night. Whoa I think we could see the Northern Lights tonight. My mind was telling me to park the car and stay out towards Vik, but my belly was saying get back to the city and make those reservations. grrrr we later found out that anyone in Vik that night DID see the Northern Lights. They weren't real strong, but they were definitely out. Sad. Reason number 3 we need to come back.
Day 5. The Blue Lagoon. Quite possibly top 5 best days of my life. It was one of those days, that as it was happening I just wanted to freeze time. I knew it was a day for the memory books. So let me back up. The Blue Lagoon, in a way, is not all that it's cracked up to be. It's mostly man made. An accidental geo thermal spill that was turned into a huge tourist attraction. It's quite the establishement too, set up like a small Disneyworld with magic bands and all. It's minimum around $100 per person, which quickly ends up being more when you add drinks into the equation. I really advise booking your day here in advance, as time slots fill up. We got the cheapest option which included use of a towel, one silica mask, and our first drink of choice. The reason this day was so perfect, really was because for the first time on this whole trip it was the only thing on our schedule. The setting is just perfect. The steamy hot water is so romantic, the coldness of the air, mixed with the heat from the water, and then you have wine. Oh my!! We spent the next 4 hours in the spa recalling our entire trip. Laughing, relaxing, flirting. Seriously having the best time. There is a steam cave, aroma therapy steam room, and sauna. WE HAD THE BEST DAY!!! My suggestion is to do this at the end of your trip. Some people like to do it right when they arrive, but I don't think we would of appreciated it as much if we would have. The only reason I didn't schedule it on our very last day (we did it second to last). Is because I had heard that the water leaves your hair feeling dry, and your skin with a film on it. I wanted a shower in my hotel before boarding a plane. They do have showers at the Blue Lagoon, so you could plan this on your way out. It was just easier for us this way. We headed back to our hotel for our last night on the town, and a romantic dinner at Snaps, the restaurant that was connected to our hotel.
We wrapped up our whole trip by spending a long afternoon in Reykjavik. Stopped by our favorite breakfast spot, Mokka. Shopped till Brooks cut me off. And finished off the day down by the water with the best fish and chips. I was sad to leave. There is just something about exploring new places with my love that makes my heart come alive. Writing this post is giving me all the feels. If Iceland is not on your travel list, you MUST change that!!!
Preparation. What to pack. You definitely need layers. It's very cold and windy at times, and then you turn the corner, go behind a huge mountain and the sun comes out. The climate can change instantly. Also RAIN GEAR! It will rain while you are there. The first day in Iceland, it never stopped raining. It wasn't a hard rain, more of a mist, but still. There were times where the sun would come out and I would go grab my camera and by the time I got out the door it was windy and raining again. Oh and the wind is CRAZY!! It comes in gusts, and is so strong that it could blow your door off your car. Be careful!
Get Lash extensions. This was one of my best moves because we were constantly getting wet. Whether it was rain, a hot spring, or a waterfall my face always seemed to get splashed. I was so glad that I didn't even have to pack mascara! Plus full dramatic lashes made it easier to wear minimal makeup. One of my favorite parts of this trip.
Rent a car. The roads are so easy to navigate. There is way too much to see, and you won't want to rely on the buses. So many times we would pull over just to snap a picture of a beautiful rainbow, or a waterfall. Be adventurous and get a car!!
If we were ever to go back to Iceland (I highly anticipate) we would make sure and hit up the north part of the island. The second largest city in Iceland, Akureyri is a MUST! Plus there is a blue lagoon of the North!! What?! Check out @jasminalley on instagram or here jasminalley.com for the best Iceland itinerary to see it all!!! Plus the north side of the island is the Arctic ocean. Brooks was so bummed that we spaced on this, because how many people can say they’ve been in the Arctic ocean?! I crack up when I think of how I really had no idea what I was about to experience in Iceland. I kept telling Brooks it was going to be a super relaxing trip with not many activities planned. Well, turns out we didn’t even get to all of them. Oops!!! Maybe we will take the kids in the next few years. It’s a country that is super easy to navigate and mostly everyone speaks English. Only problem with taking your family is a meal would cost $250 plus each time. ha! So maybe just a stopover on the way to another European country. Needless to say, there is so much more to explore on this lovely island. You could go to the same exact spot several days in a row and you would see something different. Truly incredible. With a population of only 350,000 you get to experience untouched nature. It’s a beautiful thing, to be completely off the grid. Driving for miles and not seeing a billboard, or gas station. Just the most gorgeous landscapes that are nearly indescribable. Iceland has stolen my heart.
Wanna know outfit deets?……Shop my Iceland looks here!! Let me know if you have any other questions. I’d love to help you with your trip to Iceland.