Icelandic Adventures

We stepped out of our comfort zone to travel a country where the weather is iffy but the list of activities to partake in is not!




Andrew and I love to travel and we do a lot of it {for the average 20-something-year-olds}. If you've been with me from the beginning, you know my goal has always been to travel to one new destination every year. This year, it was time for an international trip and I had been hearing all of the buzz about Iceland and boy did it live up to the expectations!


We went to Iceland for one week in August of 2019, technically still their summer but chilly nonetheless. The thing about Iceland is that a lot of it is untouched land. There is one road -the Ring Road- that goes around the whole country. Anywhere you need to get to, you take the Ring Road. Because we were limited to just a week's time, we prioritized traveling the southern and western coasts above the eastern and northern coasts. We wanted to make sure we hit Vik in southern Iceland and Reyjkavik, the capital city.

Leg 1


The Drive from Reykjavik Down the Southern Coast


After a red-eye flight from Newark to Reykjavik, we landed a bit tired but ready to hit the ground running! We shuttled from the airport to get our rental car {no driving on the wrong side of the road like Ireland- phew!}. We began our drive down the southern coast to Vik. I read many blogs about destination stops we could take along the way to break up the drive a bit. The first stop we came to was the Reykjadalur Thermal Hot Springs...WOW. It was quite a hike to get up to these springs but beyond worth it.



The views were second to none. It truly felt like we were on another planet!

Walking through these clouds from the hot springs felt sooo amazing but smelt like sulfur.

We came across Icelandic ponies which are so mellow and friendly.

We were bundled up because the temperatures at the end of Iceland's summer season are quite cool. By the time we got to the springs {about a 1.5 mile hike}, I had shed most of my winter layers! Then, we saw it...



...this amazing thermal hot spring river right in the middle of the mountains! You can tell this had grown into an incredibly popular tourist attraction over time by how much thought went into the appearance and practicality of it all. There was a gorgeous boardwalk lining the entire stream, steps down into the water, and even changing areas to throw your suit on! We had an absolute blast.




After a nice soak in the steaming water, we reversed our hike back down the mountain to our car and headed for the falls!


Seljalandsfoss

We approached Seljalandsfoss and even from afar, the sheer size of these falls were breathtaking.



But getting up close was even more incredible. I had done my research online so I knew this fall was a destination for the ability to walk BEHIND it! Yes, you read that correctly. At Seljalandsfoss, you can {carefully} follow a path that takes you behind the roaring falls. Be prepared to enjoy gorgeous sights...and to get a little soaked in the process!



Always rainbows spotted at these gorgeous falls!


View from behind the falls!

Skogafoss

Up next on our waterfall tour: Skogafoss! Another beyond breathtaking waterfall that again, captured our attention from a mile down the road.



After gawking at the falls for a few minutes and getting drenched as we got close to take photos, we hiked the staircase that climbs the mountain next to the falls. There were a LOT of steps {exact number unknown} and it was exhausting but the view at the top was well worth the hike!

The Downfall of Vik

Now, something we did not know going into this trip is that southern Iceland is NOTORIOUS for awful, windy, rainy weather. We knew Iceland had unpredictable weather but what blogs failed to tell me was that southern Iceland is consistently yucky. After we visited the falls, we drove to our AirBnb in Vik, which was not any ordinary B&B. We decided to be adventurous and go "canvas glamping". This campsite was shown on AirBnB with amazing reviews which we now realize must have been a hoax.





These photos may be all smiles, but trust me when I say we had the worst possible experience there. In theory, the quaint tents with actual furniture and heating blankets inside should have been great. However, the wild wind and rain we had that night shook the tent so badly, we were up all night thinking it was going to collapse on us! When we finally decided to pack up and leave in the morning, we went into the main barn {the common area with wifi, ping-pong tables, and heat} to find two families whose tents actually did collapse on them in the middle of the night, leaving all of their belongings soaking wet!


We were supposed to stay for a second night but after that fiasco, we were out of there like a bat outta hell. We then commenced to...

Leg 2


Glacier Hiking in Skaftafell + Perusing Diamond Beach


As exhausted as we were from our sleepless night, we were beyond eager to get to our next adventure...glacier hiking! Iceland has so many guided excursions available and this one was extremely well-planned.


Got my ice pick and crampons ready!

We had an amazing guide who luckily, due to the wind, made the smart call to keep us on the lower half of the glacier. And boy was it windy. Glacier hiking is like walking up a low-incline hill. As soon as you get to the top, it looks a lot steeper than it felt as you were climbing it!


View from the top! (Trust me, it felt steeper than it looks).


To get to the actual ice part of the glacier, we had to do a tricky hike up this sloping pile of rocks and over a rickety bridge. Only one person was allowed to cross at a time so that tells you just how unstable it was...



Simply ecstatic post-hike!

Once we were on the glacier, it was one big photo op! Our guide told us exactly how to post to get the best 'gram-worthy' shots.




What a day! But it didn't stop there...we went from the glacier straight to Diamond Beach, an amazing lake with frozen mini-glaciers and diamond-like ice figures all around.






I personally thought the irony of being at Diamond Beach with no ring on my finger was HI-larious...

Leg 3


The Journey to Reykjavik + Blue Lagoon Relaxin'


After our exhausting night of no sleep and a glacier hike, we ventured off to Reykjavik, a 4+ hour drive from Vik. It was a long journey but we made it into the bustling town and to our hotel just as the sun was setting! We got a much needed night of sleeping peacefully {in no shaking tents} and awoke to a beautifully sunny day in Reykjavik!


Reykjavik is an interesting town with many artsy spots. Walking around is quite fun because there is so much to see and do! We made it a point to stop at a highly-recommended bakery called Braud, ate a cinnamon roll that was to die for, and then hopped in the car headed to the Blue Lagoon!










The Blue Lagoon was everything you'd expect it to be: clean, bright, fresh, and beautiful. Truly a relaxing experience. We did the lowest package, which was still quite pricey. This allowed us one free drink at the swim-up bar and a silicone mask so I would say it was a great package to do! They tell you there is a time limit but we stayed way past it with no penalties.




**Disclaimer: these photos have had no editing done to them...it's just THAT beautiful there!


The second you step in the water, you're welcomed by a warmth that, in Iceland, is beyond comforting. We had a bracelet to wear the whole time, ensuring that we didn't need our wallets with us and that anything we wanted to purchase would be sent to the bracelet to pay for later.


We waded in the water...



...got our beers at the swim-up bar...




...and got our silica mud masks



What a DAY we had at the Blue Lagoon. It was truly an experience we will never forget!





Leg 4

Exploring the Snaefellsness Peninsula (Western Coast)


Ytri Tunga {Seal Beach}

The next day was all about exploring the western coast! We used our handy rental car to drive up about two and a half hours. We stopped at a quaint bakery along the way with delicious cinnamon rolls {what is it about Iceland and cinnamon rolls??} Our first tourist stop was Seal Beach where, yes, we saw seals!



Little Black Church in Budir


Our next stop was slightly creepy. This destination was on all of the websites I read up on and it was nothing but something cool to look at. Literally named the little black church, that's all it was. We pulled up and something about the misty and gray weather combined with the eeriness of an abandoned church was really neat!




We didn't stay for long but definitely a must-see photo-op site.


Arnastapi to Hellnar Hike


This hike was advised on many sites mainly because it guides you along the coast. The weather was iffy but we really wanted to do this hike because similar to Ireland where we had traveled a few years ago, the rock formations along the coast were second to none.


Also similar to Ireland, the drop to the bottom was stomach-churning...luckily we didn't fall!





Djupalonssandur Black Sand Beach


The next part of this day trip was one of my favorite stops-the black sand beach! Known for its black sand, rock formations, and rusted ship wreckage from long ago, this beach is something that is even hard to dream up in the imagination. It truly is like another world!








Mount Kirkjufell {Arrowhead Mountain}


As a huge Game of Thrones fan, Andrew just HAD to see Arrowhead mountain, also known as Mount Kirkjufell.




Leg 5

ATV-ing through the Moutains of Reykjavik


Another well-executed excursion, ATV-ing was an amazing experience and a great way to get an incredible view of the city of Reykjavik!


We used Iceland Excursions to arrange our ATV tour and it did not disappoint. We were picked up at the bus station {although you could have requested a pick-up directly at your hotel}. At the ATV headquarters, there were actually many sets of bachelor/bachelorette parties there! Clearly something many people our age do when visiting Iceland. Andrew drove our ATV the whole time because switching halfway through was a little tedious and I thoroughly enjoyed being a passenger! We followed our group in a line to the top of a mountain where we got to take in the amazing views of the city before heading back down.


ATV-ing is a lot of fun because it's like subdued monster trucks-they can drive over just about anything!










Leg 6

The Golden Circle Tour


We opted not to do too many tours while we were in Iceland because just as in other countries, we tend to feel rushed by tours that aren't on our own schedule. However, there was SO much to see in the Golden Circle, we figured we would do a tour so we knew we'd see it all in one day effectively.


The Golden Circle tour included seeing the famous Geysir, Gulfoss or "Golden Falls", and Thingvellir National Park which included the separated tectonic plates. These destinations were not spots we needed to spend all day on so we were ultimately happy that we went ahead and booked the bus tour!


The Geysir

The Geysir was the first leg of the bus tour and we approached the site where the geysir supposedly erupted every 8-10 minutes. It felt we waited for a while with the camera at the ready but sure enough, soon there was a bubbling sound and boom! What a sight.



There were many geothermal pools roped off because of their temperature but the crystal blue water was absolutely stunning in each one. So clear you could see almost to the bottom!

We had an hour to spend at the geysir and we noticed people standing on top of an overlook. We quickly figured out how to get to the top and after a brief hike, we made it!



Gulfoss Falls

Gulfoss, menaing 'Golden Falls', was by far the most spectacular waterfall we had seen yet. Didn't believe that could happen after Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss?? Neither did we. Gulfoss truly cannot be captured in photos due to the sheer size and unbelievable layout of the cliffs and falls.







Thingveller National Park

From Gulfoss, we made our way back to the bus and ventured on to our last stop: Thingvellir. Thingvellir is a pretty incredible place. This too is a location where Game of Thrones filmed a few scenes! We first passed through the entrance to the park, where our guide told us to look outside the window to see the separation of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates!


We began walking through these massive rock formations and just like everywhere else in Iceland, we saw beautiful rainbows sweeping from one rock formation to the next!






This tour concluded our trip for the most part. It was an extremely active trip but one we will never forget! On our last night, we had the pleasure of walking around downtown Reykjavik during their culture festival. We sat at the harbor as fireworks went off and it was truly a perfect ending to a perfect trip!




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