For a discount airline, Icelandair is a damn good one. It was clean, had free snacks and water, and had good service. So when I found a roundtrip, non-stop ticket from Tampa (yeah, Tampa!) for ~$400 I booked it immediately. I booked for March, with the hopes of seeing Northern Lights, but also knowing that some areas of the country would not be accessible. So, I knew that Iceland is very expensive (other than getting there) so I came prepared with snacks and protein bars and then bought a whole bunch of stuff (including alcohol) at duty free when I got to the Keflavik airport (KEF). I got my rental car (4×4 with snow tires) and headed to the Blue Lagoon. I went back and forth between this and the Secret Lagoon since it’s touristy and over priced. But it was a once in a lifetime thing, so I splurged. Plus, my flight got in around 7 am, so by my 8 am appointment time there it wasn’t too crowded. There are locker rooms there so you can shower off, change, and go into the lagoon from the inside first. That made it manageable. It came with a drink (nothing special-but cool to do a swim up bar from the lagoon) and a mud mask. Be careful not to dunk your head, it can really dry out your hair. Then it was to the hotel (Iceland Wellness Center). Well, what I thought was a hotel from booking.com. Most of the places in Iceland were guesthouses, so it was a room inside a home. It was fine though, the owner was nice and told me a lot of culture and places to visit. Then it was to Reykjavik for exploring. This was a cool city and it was more of a wandering situation, knowing what the main sites were. I saw Hallgrimskirkja (the cathedral with a tall tower), had a famous Icelandic hotdog (nothing special), saw Harpa (the concert hall), and the Sun Voyager. While walking around I got to see a lot of the cool street art that was very colorful.
Day 2 ended up not going as planned due to snow and the roads up north closing. The plan was to go to Snæfellsjökull National Park on the west. It was flurrying as the drive started but a few hours in it was a complete blizzard and not safe to drive. After stopping at a guest house for a coffee and speaking to a woman who worked there, she gave me ideas of a different direction to go that wasn’t closed off. So headed off to Búðardalur and got to play around in the snow in the beautiful mountains on the way there.
On the next day I started off to the Golden Circle, starting at Selfoss (waterfall) and then going to Þingvellir National Park. It was one main hike up and then you walked on top of the mountain all the way over and could go back down the other way. I should preface; if you have crampons wear them and there are paid parking spots there- I didn’t do either and fell and got a ticket. Þingvellir has been listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for its geological the uniqueness and historical significance. While there you can see where Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet (called Silfra) (and snorkel in between them if you’re crazy enough to get in that cold water). While hiking you will get to see Öxarárfoss waterfall which was pretty much frozen, but an amazing site. From there it was off to an exciting trip of waterfalls and Icelandic horses (which were short and had this fun Justin Bieber hair style). It started off at Bruarfoss, then Geysir (one of the Geysirs went off every 5 minutes so it was hard to miss), and then Gullfoss (the highlight of the day). Then off to the hotel which was a cool cabin in the middle of nowhere called Hotel Lambafall. I spent three nights here.
The next day I had an excursion booked (through Viator) to go on a glacier walk. I met my tour guide in Höfn, which was about a 3 hour drive (but scenic). Climbing on top of the Jökulsárlón Glacier was definitely an amazing experience and I got to see what the ice caves looked like from above. Unfortunately the ice caves were beginning to melt and going in them was not an option. On the way back to the hotel many stops were made to continue exploring Southern Iceland. The first stop was Diamond Beach which is black sand beach with huge (depending on the time of year) chunks of ice sitting on the beach. Then it was to Svartifoss, which is a huge waterfall that’s surrounded by dark lava columns-quite the site. After that, it was off to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, which was truly a breath taking site. Continuing on back I went to the Black sand beach (Reynisfjara) in Vik. This beach has black sand, insane basalt columns, lava formations, towering cliffs, and caves. Then it was dinner and I ate pizza at Sudur Vik. Not my typical New York pizza I like, but it was great to have some carbs after all of the day’s hiking.
The next day was more relaxing; visiting waterfalls which included some hiking to get to the top of them. Because so many of the “oh my god” stops were made the last two days many things on today’s itinerary were already visited, I stopped and spent some time visiting Skógafoss Waterfall, including going down to the Kvernufoss Waterfall, the hidden waterfall. Make sure you have waterproof boots (up to your knees) if you’re going to go to the hidden waterfall. The rest of the day was spent watching the sunset in the hot tub at my hotel and playing cards and drinking with some of the people at my hotel.
My flight was at 6 pm so I had some scheduled stops for on the way back to the airport. The first of which being Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall is definitely a must see in Iceland. During the summer you can walk behind this waterfall, but the area to walk was completely frozen over and closed when I was there. I stopped at Hella, but not much to do there unless you are going to do an excursion or activity. I also stopped at Reykjadalur Hot Springs…I ended up not going in, it didn’t seem like it was worth it to me. Perhaps if I wasn’t getting on a plane in a few hours I would have opted to get in and get wet. The last stop (it costs about $5 to get in) was Kerið. This is a volcanic crater lake in the Grímsnes area (can be part of Golden Circle). There are a few craters in the area but this is the most popular and a cool thing to see.
Iceland was an amazing trip and I plan on going back in the summer and doing the ring road and exploring the whole country.