Our trip started with a 5:45 PM flight. Since we were all working, we wrapped up work around 2 and started getting ready to make the trek to the airport. We were meeting Duncan and Allie at the airport so we called an Uber around 2:45 to get to Marta. Marta was a lot quicker than our last experience and we got the the airport a little after 4:00. After dropping off our luggage we waited on Duncan and Allie for a few minutes then went through security. We were all TSA so it was quick to get through security. Once we got to our gate we waited bout 15 minutes then boarded. Our first flight was a quick 2 hour flight to Minneapolis. We had a 3 hour layover but landed a bit late.
Day 2 – Airport to Vik
We landed around 9 AM and grabbed our luggage. Airport customs was such a joke and we didn’t even have to fill out a form. They simply stamped our passport and we grabbed our luggage and headed out. We stopped by duty free after security and picked up 1L of liqueur and 2 wine bottles per person since alcohol is really expensive in Iceland and we were going to be in pretty remote locations. We ordered a rental car through Blue Rental Car which was a slight walk from the airport. You exit though arrivals and walk through the parking lot to arrive at Blue Rental Car. We picked up a 7 seater Kia which was quite roomy and had a navigation system to help us navigate (free of charge since it was built into the car). Once we got the car we headed to N1 (a gas station about 15 minutes from the airport) to pick up the we ordered. It was relatively cheap for the 10 days we were driving around and it gave us the comfort that we might not get lost (and could call for help if needed). From there we headed to Bonus Supermarket to get snacks and breakfast and lunch. Food is pretty expensive and we were going to be in fairly remote places so we wanted to make sure that we had plenty to eat! After stocking up on snacks and food we hit the road around 10:30.
We hit the road to travel ring road counter clock wise for the next week. The drive starts super desolate with lava fields all around and not much vegetation. After a while it goes to lush green fields. It is crazy how quickly you go from desolate lands to vegetation! Our first stop was Church which was a small Lutheran parish in . It is right on the coast so you can walk down to the water and look at the beautiful coast line. We went into the church and explored a bit before heading to the next stop. We headed to lunch at the black sand beaches. The beach was beside which was a restaurant that closes for the winter time. The road is right after the restaurant and we parked the car there. We walked down to the beach and laid out the blanket and made PB&J and salami and cheese sandwiches, snacked on chips and cookies, and took in the beautiful views. The weather was over cast during the day but it was perfect temperature. The winds weren’t too heavy and although it rained a little on and off throughout the day, it seemed whenever we were outside it wasn’t raining.
After lunch we headed to Waterfall. You could see this one from the road and it was fairly crowded but cook because you got to walk behind the waterfall. After that, we drove another minute or so down the road to Waterfall. Most people don’t know that it exists so it has a lot less people looking at it is beautiful! At Waterfall you walk into a cave under the rock opening on the left of the waterfall. There you walk right into the waterfall and can look up to see the top. Make sure to wear your rain gear to this since you get quite wet! After that we walked to the top of the waterfall which was about 5 minutes and super intense! Thank goodness for Joe or I don’t think I would have made it up or down. It was a stunning view though!
After that it was time to head to Waterfall. This is also a very popular waterfall since were were still only a day trip from Reykjavik. There are stairs to the top but by this time we were all getting really tired since we didn’t really sleep the night before so we just walked up to the water fall then headed back to the car to head to Glacier. This is a really cool glacier but it is about a 15-minute hike to the glacier, and we were doing a full 3 hour glacier hike the next day, we just walked to the ridge to look at it. From there we had one last stop, Arch. There are two stops at the Arch, one looking at the Arch from the left side, and the lighthouse looking at the arch from the right. Both are a pretty cool view and we walked around both. The lighthouse gives you the best view of Arch and we walked around for a while. It is cool to look down the cliffs onto the black sand beaches but kind of intimidating. They don’t have a whole lot of safety features around so we didn’t venture too close to the edge.
After the Arch it was time to head to dinner. Dinner was at in Vik. Duncan and I got the lamb sandwich while Joe got the special burger (which he says is one of the best burgers he has ever had) and Allie got a pizza. The food is all local and the meats are all from Iceland and everything was amazing! We opted out of desert but it looked amazing, we were all just so tired. It was about a 25 minute drive to the hotel and we got check in at Guesthouse .
At Guesthouse we had a 3 bedroom cabin which was super cute. The cabin was warmed up for us and we were so grateful for a shower and warm beds to lay down on. We cracked open the wine, showered, relaxed, and unwound. There were horses in our backyard so we went to say hello to the horses while the sun set. We forced ourselves to stay awake until 9 but the second 9 hit we went to bed! Within a minute, I was asleep in what seemed like the deepest sleep ever!
Day 3 – Vik to
We woke up in the morning after 10 and a half hours of sleep. Needless to say, it was much needed. We woke up at 7:30 and got ready for the day. After packing up our stuff we headed to breakfast around 8:30. We got free breakfast with our guestroom stay so we headed to breakfast. They had a variety of meets and cheeses, toast, jams, fruits, and waffles. We munched on breakfast and sipped on tea and coffee for about 30 minutes before packing up the car and heading out for the day.
The day started with a one hour drive. We detoured from our original plan and stopped at which was right off the main road. This is an area of lava mounds that were built in memory of farms that were destroyed during a volcano. The area is full of little rock mounds, and for good luck, tourist add their own little rock to the mounds. After that stop we continued on to gorge/canyon. This is a stunning area and my favorite stop so far. We walked around for about 45 minutes and explored the area a bit. Then it was time to hop back into the car for our drive to lunch before the glacier hike in the afternoon.
Along the way the scenery and terrain changed multiple times. We stopped here and there to pet some ponies, take pictures of the scenery, and explore some waterfalls. Before we knew it we were at the Visitor Center for lunch. At the visitor center they have a food truck that had several options for food. Duncan and Joe got the fish and chips while Allie got the lobster soup. I decided to make myself a PB&J and chips since nothing seemed to be what I wanted it was nice to have food to grab in the car.
After that we got geared up for the Glacier Hike. The tour met at the visitor center where we signed wavers at Glacier Guides. After getting geared up with ice picks and crampons and took about a 15 minute drive on a bus to the glacier. We hiked at National Park. It started with about a 25 minute walk to the glacier than the hike started. We were doing a 3 hour tour so we were on the glacier for about 2 hours which was plenty! We learned about how glaciers form, move, and explored the glacier. It was surprisingly easy to move up and down the glacier and we enjoyed the tour. We also filled up our water bottles with glacier water since it was straight from the source! I don’t know that we would do it again but It was definitely something to do once in your lifetime!
After the tour we headed to our last stop, Glacier Lake which was breathtaking. The temperatures had begun to drop so it was quite cold but the park has so many glaciers in it! We made sure to cross over the bridge which was great because that was where there was a huge collection of icebergs. The icebergs were so blue and there were ducks swimming around everywhere. We explored the area, skipped rocks, and tried to get some glimpses of the seals swimming around. We walked over to the other side of the bridge to see if we could see more seals but unfortunately only one wanted to pop its head up. This was such a beautiful experience and a must see!
After the glacier lake we head to for dinner and bed time! Dinner was at and it is the best meal we have had in Iceland and per Joe – a top 3 meal this year! We all opted for the surf and turf which was langoustine and lamb rib eye with some potatoes, carrots, beets, and leeks and a super yummy white sauce. Joe practically licked both his and my plates. After dinner we checked into our hotel for the night, the Milk Factory where we had one room with a loft for the second bed. We sipped on some drinks and tea and got ready for bed. I called it a night around 9 while the rest of the crew stayed up for a bit longer.
Day 4 – to
We planned on sleeping in a bit but were all awake before 7. We headed to breakfast where we had toast, eggs, cold cuts, fruits, and (Islandic yogurt) with granola and strawberry jam. After breakfast we headed back and slowly got moving. We didn’t have a set plan for today so we didn’t have a set time to hit the road. We left around 9:45 and started by heading to the bay at . Unfortunately, shortly after we started exploring it started raining so we hopped back in the car pretty quickly and hit the road to our first stop.
We had about an hour and a half drive to our first stop (lunch) but driving through the East Fjords was stunning and we kept stopping here and there to explore, take pictures, pet ponies, marvel at waterfalls, etc. We went in and out of rain, sunshine, fog, and windy weather. It is crazy how quickly weather can change in Iceland in a 5 minute timespan!
We stopped for lunch at in . This is a casual fish restaurant where Joe and Duncan ordered the special for the day which was cod, salad, and vegetables. Allie got the sloppy Joe which was really a pulled pork sandwich. I was feeling a bit under the weather with a soar throat so I sipped on some tea and then ate Joe’s desert, which was a mixed berry cobbler with home made whipped cream. We have yet to have a bad meal during this trip! The city of is super cute and on the water but it was raining when we finished up lunch. Joe, Allie, and Duncan went to the grocery store to grab some snacks while I made myself a PB&J sandwich to wrap up lunch.
After lunch we headed to our next stop. Instead of taking the long way, we decided to take a short cut that took off about 3 hours off the drive. The drive was on a gravel road that was windy and through the mountains. The worst part was that visibility was about 5 feet and Joe was quite a trooper and made it through the clouds and fog safely and we were greeted by the most beautiful full rainbow over a waterfall on the other side. Again, it was crazy how quickly the weather changed and the sun was shining and it was quite warm out.
We drove the rest of the way to waterfall which is the third highest waterfall in Iceland. The hike is straight up for about 20 minutes. Although it wasn’t raining at the base of the hike, it was quite windy and rainy at about halfway up so we decided to call it a hike and headed back down. The last waterfall was which was right next to our hotel. Unfortunately, when we got to it was rainy and cold so we decided that since we need to pass the waterfall again in the morning we headed to the hotel to check in. We were staying at Hotel where we had a room with two queen beds, the one Joe and I stayed on was in a little nook for the bed. The hotel has several different hotels, but we opted for one with a beautiful view of the lake out of our windows. Although it was rainy all evening, the view was still beautiful and the town was super quant. Once we got settled into the room, I laid down for a bit hoping to feel a bit better and then we headed to dinner around 7.
Dinner was at Lara – El Grill Boar. There was an Icelandic soccer game on TV so it was cool getting to watch the game with the locals watching it as well. There, we ordered some drinks and tea and then Joe and I got horse and a lamb chop while Duncan and Allie got horse and ribs. The food was good, not great, but we were all pleasantly surprised with the horse. It seemed like a mixture between a steak and lamb since it was a bit more gamey than steak. We didn’t stay until the end of the game since I was ready to head to bed. We got back to the room and I went to bed while the others enjoyed a couple drinks before calling it a night.
Day 4: to
We woke up around 7 and started getting moving. We headed to breakfast at the hotel (a 3-minute walk from our hotel room) and it was by far the best breakfast selection we have had. There was a baked omelet, a ton of different bread options, with granola, an assortment of fruit including kiwi, grapefruit, , cold cuts and cheeses, tuna salad, hummus, and more! We all ate a ton of food before heading back to the room and getting packed for the day. It was incredibly windy but we were relieved that the rain had passed.
Our first stop was right down the street from the hotel and it was Waterfall. It was really windy and cold out so we decided not to hike up the waterfall to see the second tear of the falls since we were going to see a handful of other waterfalls throughout the day. We hit the road and entered into some fog again but this time it let up pretty quickly and the remainder of the morning drive was watching the clouds finally clear a bit!
We decided that there wasn’t going to be much food for another hour or so and it was already 2 in the afternoon so we dug up all of our chips and cookies and PB&J sandwiches for the road. We made the trek back to the main road and then were on our way to the last couple of stops for the day. We went to Viti Crater first, which is a huge exposed crater that was cool to see. We opted against walking all the way around the crater and decided to head to the Geyser and Geothermal area. This was so cool too see but with the content being super high, it also smelled terrible! We explored for a bit and then headed to the hotel.
We were staying at Guesthouse tonight so we got checked in and booked dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant. This time around when we got to the room we had four twin beds lined up in a row! We moved them around a bit to make two king beds so we also had a bit more room to move around the room. I wasn’t feeling very well after walking in the wind and rain around the waterfalls for about an hour and a half so I decided I was going to relax while the rest of the crew went to the Nature Baths.
The hotel gave us a 10% discount on the baths which was where they bought the tickets then headed to the baths. They said they were really cool to see but incredibly crowded. They do make you shower naked before you put your bathing suit on to go to the baths. They have 3 different temperature baths but the hottest one was closed so they hung out and explored the different areas and then went to the sauna for a while. They got back around 6:30 and then we headed to round 7.
Dinner was at the Restaurant which served Icelandic farm food. Some of the tables look onto the barn connected to the restaurants where the cows get and fed and the other half looks over the farm. Joe and Duncan ordered the lamb shank, Allie ordered the Cod, and I ordered the goulash. Everything was fantastic and the scenery was beautiful. After dinner we headed to the N1 to get desert only to find that it closed at 8 so we headed back to the room. I got ready for bed, Joe got some work done, and Duncan and Allie went to a small desert place down the street from the hotel, and said the deserts and cakes were wonderful.
Once they finished up they came back and everyone headed to bed, ready to ride horses the next day!
Day 5: to Fjords Base
We woke up in the morning and headed to breakfast around 8. This morning I think Joe ate breakfast for about 10 people. They breads were amazing, they also had fruit, tons of cheeses and cold cuts (including smoked lamb), lamb pate, and a ton of cookies, crackers, and fruit breads. The were also . After breakfast we headed back to the room, packed up, and hit the road.
The first stop was about an hour drive, Water which is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. It was smaller than the ones from yesterday but the weather was much more enjoyable and we even saw some sun here and there. We explored for about 30 minutes and then headed to , which is the second largest city in Iceland.
Once we arrived at we explored the botanical gardens for about 30 minutes or so. They had some really cool winter flowers and others that I would assume they will be moving to the greenhouses pretty soon. After we finished up at the botanical gardens we headed downtown where it was decided that everyone had to have their first hot dog. I was feeling pretty terrible so I stayed in the car while Duncan, Joe, and Allie stopped by Hot Dog Wagon and got hot dogs and Joe brought be back a cup of Icelandic Meat Soup which was really good. Once we finished up lunch we hit the road for where we would be horseback riding.
We decided to do a one hour horseback ride through the fields on Islandic Ponies. Once we got there we were worried we would be hitting a lot of rain but somehow it cleared up perfectly for our horseback ride. Once we got assigned a horse we were off. We walked slowly initially to get use to the horses and then after a while we learned how to trot a bit quicker. It was definitely a wonderful experience but an hour was plenty of time, especially since it really took about two hours from start to finish! We even took the ponies through a small creek! They were so sweet and the guides were fantastic.
Once we wrapped up with the ponies we went down the street to Church which is a small little turf church. Unfortunately, it was closed for the winter so we only got to see the outside. From there we started heading to the hotel. Along the way was the Church which was a small town in Iceland with an incredibly unique church. After taking some pictures there we headed to check in at Lodge. We booked two rooms of a 3 room apartment with a shared kitchen and bathroom. The third room was a one person room so we were excited to find it was empty for the night and we would have the whole place to ourselves!
Once we got checked in I laid down for a while and everyone got showered and ready for dinner. We headed into town for dinner at which had beautiful views of the farm to one side and the sea port to the other side. Joe, Duncan, and Allie all opted for different burgers while I got a bowl of rabbit soup and a side of fries (their fries are amazing!). After dinner we headed back to the room where I went to bed while the others hung out and watched the go pro video of the horseback ride. We woke up in the middle of the night hoping to see some northern lights but unfortunately they weren’t coming out when we were checking! Better luck another night, hopefully!
Day 6: Fjords Base to
We didn’t have any stops planned for the day so we were a little slower moving in the morning. We headed to breakfast around 8:30 and were excited to find some waffles, scrambled eggs, and sausage served instead of the standard European cold cuts and cheese. The breads and jams were amazing as well as the granola which was home made. After a good breakfast Allie and Duncan went to play with the puppies at the hotel before we hit the road. Along the way we would stop here and there to take photos along the drive, then stopped for gas and lunch at the N1 station . They had sandwiches, burgers, and wraps so I went for my standard PB&J while Joe got a chicken schnitzel and Allie and Duncan had chicken wraps. It wasn’t the best food ever but it was pretty good for gas station food and sufficed for a quick lunch.
After lunch we hit the road for the remaining 2-and-a-half-hour drive to our hotel. Along the way we got out and snapped some pictures in the fjords and the wind had picked up significantly. It was almost impossible to open the door to the car it was so windy when we wanted to hop out to snap some photos. It had also gotten a whole lot colder but we enjoyed all of the stunning views. The roads were windy and you would go from sea lever to 500M in what seemed like minutes but the views were breathtaking. We also got lucky that the rain didn’t start until we got to the hotel so we actually got to enjoy the views and didn’t hit too much fog. The very last pit stop right before we got to the guesthouse was a pull away area that said there might be seals. It was really cool because they left a box out with binoculars and we were lucky enough to see a handful of seal heads popping up and playing with each other. They were so cute!
We got to the hotel around 4. This time we were staying in an Air B&B which we had booked on booking.com. It looked like a shipping container and was located in the heart of . After we found the place (Bungalow in ) we let ourselves in. The place had really low doors and ceilings and I think even I had to bend over to get through the front door! Once we got in there was a small kitchen and then a bedroom where Duncan and Allie slept, and a loft that Joe and I slept in. We relaxed for a bit and then Duncan, Allie, and Joe went to the liquor store. After they came back they hung out for a bit longer and then Duncan and Joe went to the grocery store to grab some snacks and breakfast. Once they got back they had decided that we would just go to the bakery down the street from us for breakfast in the morning.
Before we knew it it was time to head to dinner. We made dinner reservations the night before at “the best fish restaurant in the world” per Joe, and we were so glad we did because they had to turn people away. has two seating times 7 and 9, and we opted for 7:00. Once we got there there we were seated at communal style tables. They brought out water and I grabbed a cup of tea. There was a flat rate of about $45/person. You start with soup and bread, which was amazing. It was a buttery fish soup that was super tasty. After that you wait about 30 minutes for the fish servings. There are 6 fish selections that are set out and these are the fish that were caught that day. They were all prepared differently, one a blackened style, teriyaki, a Mediterranean one, and so much more. There were also different side options, from small potatoes to veggies and potatoes salad. It was all you can eat and everyone agreed that it was one of the best fish meals we have had. The fish were so fresh and incredibly flavorful. After the guys went up for seconds we sipped on tea and coffee before heading out just as the 9:00 seating were getting seated. Once we got back it was bed time for Joe and I since Joe was starting to feel a bit sick as well and we had a long day of driving ahead of us!
Day 7: to
We woke up around 7:30 and started getting ready for breakfast. was a 2-minute walk from our guesthouse and it had every option you wanted! Joe and I got cinnamon rolls and a hard roll and sipped on tea while Duncan and Allie got a donut, eclair, and a focaccia pizza and some coffee. Everything was amazing. We walked around for a little before heading back to the house to pack.
We hit the road around 9:15 or so and headed to our first stop, Waterfall. Along the way we took in stunning views and enjoyed the fact that the sun was out and it wasn’t foggy. We pulled over here and there to snap some photos and before we knew it we had made it to the waterfall. It is a series of 7 waterfalls in all that are about 100 m height total. The top fall is stunning and the hike up to it is about 30 minutes. Since we had been on gravel roads for the majority of the hour and a half drive to the waterfall, it was nice to get out and stretch our legs, and the sun was out! Once we finished up hiking we headed to for lunch. We grabbed lunch at hotel where Joe, Duncan and I had a burger while Allie had a ham and cheese sandwich. After lunch we hit the road for another hour or so drive to the red sand beaches.
The drive to the beaches was a bit out of the way and this was by far the worst road that we had taken while in Iceland. Along the drive there were stunning views and we stopped multiple times to take in the views, especially since the weather was so nice out. We didn’t even need our heavy winter coats! When we got to the top of the mountains looking down on the red sand beach it was one of the prettiest views we have seen in Iceland. The water was pretty low so the sandbars were visible through the bright blue water. We continued down to the beach very slowly (we were stuck behind a super slow driver) which made the gravel road even worse since we took every bump slowly. Once we got to the bottom there is a small sign that indicates a walking path out to the beaches. It was about a ½ mile walk to where you could actually get to the beach but the path is flat and beautiful. It is so cool to see the grass multiple colors and the wheat almost had a purple color to it. We spent some time hanging out on the beach before making the trek back.
After the beach it was time for the final leg of the trip which was about 3 ½ hours. This was the longest drive of the trip for us so we were all quick to find stops to pull over at and take a breather and some pictures. Since it was getting somewhat late and our hotel was in the middle of nowhere, we decided to grab dinner at a restaurant in the city closest to the hotel (30 minutes away) but not too far out of the way for our drive. We ate dinner at which was a fish restaurant and we all ordered fish and chips. They weren’t terrible for a last minute find and they served huge portion sizes.
After dinner we made the trek to the hotel which was another 35 km gravel road. No joke the hotel was in the middle of nowhere, and this is the first one I wouldn’t recommend to stay at. We stayed at Country Lodge and had the family room. Upon check in they told us breakfast was included which we thought was great since we didn’t believe so. The room had one tiny window and a leaking skylight. Since it was leaking they put a tarp over it which would have been fine except it was windy out at night so the tarp was incredibly loud the whole night. We all got settled in for the night and headed to bed a little after 9.
Day 8: to
It was a rough night sleep for me in the room with the tarp blowing all night. We got up and headed to breakfast which didn’t have a great selection. It had one type of bread, waffles, and some meats and cheeses. After we finished up breakfast we hit the road. At check out they charged us $15/person for breakfast after they had told us it was free of charge which was annoying but there isn’t much you can argue with. We started the day with a 2 hour drive to our first stop. It rained on and off during the drive so we didn’t pull over very often for pictures.
Our first stop was the Church/hill. On a sunny day, you can see all the way to Reykjavik when you climb to the top of the hill. It had stopped raining once we got there so we decided to do the quick 10 minute hike to the top but since it was so cloudy we weren’t able to see very far. Either way, it was nice to stretch our legs and still a very pretty view from the top. After that we headed to the Lava Fields. We have seen lava fields before but there is a great legend that comes with these fields. This was a quick stop since it was pretty windy out when we got there but it is so cool to see the soft moss that grows above the lava fields.
From there, we headed to Mountain. Like the other stops, the rain slowed down while we were there which we were really grateful for. We walked to the waterfall and walked around a bit but with the clouds and fog, Mountain was mostly covered with clouds. Once we were done exploring we headed to lunch at the town right next to the mountain. We grabbed lunch at which offered a soup, salad, and bread buffet for $13 (which is super inexpensive for Iceland). The soup of the day was a broccoli cheese soup (they brought out cauliflower towards the end of our lunch) and they had about 5 different bread options as well as a ton of different steamed, roasted, or sautéed vegetables which we were grateful for since we haven’t had many vegetables since arriving in Iceland!
After lunch we headed to which is an area of cliff formations on the black sand beaches. The rain again slowed a bit once we got there so we walked down to the beach which was the main attraction. On the beach they have 4 different weight rocks which you try to lift. The lightest is 23 kg while the heaviest is 154 kg. With them being round and wet they are quite hard to pick up but Duncan and Joe enjoyed trying to test their strength. After the rocks it was time to start making the trip to Reykjavik. The Cliffs were along the way but we did not get out of the car to see them since it was pouring rain while we passed.
In Reykjavik we booked an for the first time. We booked a cute 2 bedroom condo in downtown that had some very pretty views of the city. We were also walkable to restaurants and exploring. Once we got settled in we headed to dinner. Dinner was at . When we got there it was a bit of a wait so we hung out at the bar before getting seated. The restaurant is quite popular so make sure you get there early because they eventually stopped taking reservations! For dinner, I ordered the reindeer burger which was amazing. Allie got a salmon salad which she enjoyed, and Joe and Duncan both ordered fin whale. Fin whale is a whale that can grow up to 89 feet long and has been banned from killing in a lot of countries but Iceland remains one of the largest exporters of Fin Whale. It does not taste like fish at all but more like a steak and the rest of the group loved it! It tastes so different from anything we had eaten before and they definitely enjoyed it. After dinner we headed back to the house where Joe and I went to bed, trying to recover and get healthy some day, and Duncan and Allie went to the bars. They had a great time enjoying the night life and met some friendly Canadians from Montreal.
Day 9: Reykjavik
It was so nice getting to relax in the morning and not worry about packing up our stuff. We actually decided to throw in some laundry in the morning since we all had a ton of dirty clothes! After we laid around for a bit we decided to head out to a café for breakfast. It was supposed to be mostly cloudy during the day with showers on and off so we bundled up to start exploring. We started with breakfast at which was just around the corner from our hotel. Joe and I both got toasted bagels while Duncan and Allie got breakfast sandwiches. Joe also got a hot chocolate which was amazing! After breakfast we started by walking up which is one of the main street ins Reykjavik. We walked in and out of the stores getting a feel for the pricing of things and what souvenirs we were working with. At the top of the street we arrived at Church which is the main landmark in Reykjavik. When we got there church was in session so Allie and Duncan hit up the National Museum which they found super interesting while Joe and I went to the sculpture museum right near the church. At 12:10 or so we headed back to the church and bought the tickets to the steeple which were 8$/person.
We took the elevator up to the steeple and got to take in the beautiful 360 degree view or Reykjavik. It is such a stunning city and I love how colorful all of the houses and rooftops were. After we got back down the the church the service was done so we walked through the church which is quite plain but has the most beautiful organ. After exploring the church, we met Duncan and Allie back at the condo and then we headed to lunch. Joe and Duncan really wanted hot dogs so they hit up which is right next to the flea market. After we waited in line for a bit (the hot dogs are a hot commodity) and then ate the hot dogs I went into the flea market where I grabbed a lamb Islandic stew which was quite flavorful.
After lunch we decided to explore the downtown side of Reykjavik. We started at Square and another square before heading up to the Catholic Church. After the catholic church we walked around the graveyard which is stunning. They have expanded the graveyard a couple times but the trees are super old and it was beautiful walking through it. After that we walked by City Hall which was really cool to see. Inside they have a really large map of Iceland that shows all of the glaciers and fjords that we drove through. After that we walked through the pond and headed to and Is which is a crepe place we found earlier in the day. Duncan and Allie made their own crepe with snickers, peanut butter and hot fudge which was “”. Joe and I got the Islandic Crepe which was a crepe filled with marshmallows and white chocolate inside and strawberries and vanilla ice cream on top. It was amazing!
After the crepe shop we headed back to the store to buy some souvenirs before heading back to relax for a bit since it was already 5 and we had walked all over Reykjavik already! We sat back and enjoyed some drinks and relaxed for a bit before heading to dinner. We walked to dinner at Gastro Pub was in the downtown area. We got seated immediately and ordered the same thing. We started with smoked puffin which was actually quite good but tasted more like liver and even looked like liver. After that we got an order of lamb shoulder which was a pound of lamb and some fantastic waffle fries. It was a huge chunk of meat and a great amount to split between two people. Once we finished up we headed home but had one more stop. We stopped by the ice cream and hot-dog shop right outside of the restaurant and got chocolate dipped ice cream cones for the walk home. Once we got home we relaxed for a couple hours then headed out to chase the northern lights.
We headed out around 9:45 when we decided we weren’t doing much at the house and gin and tonics can also be taken for the road (they don’t have open container laws in Iceland, just a 0 tolerance drinking and driving law). Once we got bundled up we headed out to the light house that is on the point of the peninsula closest to Reykjavik but still far enough out of the city to not have light . Once we got there there were also other cars waiting since it seems that thy had the same idea. It hasn’t been clear at night since we got to Iceland so this was the one chance we got to see the lights! Once we parked it was time to play the waiting game. Full sun down was around 10:00 and then the cloud coverage was supposed to fully clear at 12:00. We had read plenty of articles that people showed up when they thought the conditions were “perfect” and missed the lights so we were making sure we wouldn’t miss them! I put the back seat down and lied down in the trunk while we started waiting. Around 11:15 or so you could see the lights start glowing a bit but the clouds were blocking them from coming through so you could only see small portions of them through the slits in the clouds. Around midnight, Allie said she was getting tired and was ready to call it quits and just minutes later the lights appeared! First they were faint, and one by one people started getting out of the car (it was super cold and windy out so you stayed in the car as long as possible). Before we knew it, the lights were in full swing dancing in front of us. They were visible for about 45 minutes and we sat out and watched them. They weren’t as bright as they were on our flight but they were definitely bright enough and we even got to see them moving around and dancing a bit! They faded around 12:40 or so and we decided we were frozen enough and had gotten our fill of the northern lights so we headed home to bed! This was such a magical experience and it was definitely worth staying up past 9 and braving the cold for!
Day 10: Reykjavik (Golden Circle)
This was our last full day in Iceland so we wanted to spend one more day exploring. We slept in a lot later than before because we stayed up until about 1 the night before. We got moving around 9 since we had to go pay the meter for the car (parking is free on the weekend). After that we got moving and started getting ready for the day and sipped on mimosas. We hit the road around 9:45 and headed to breakfast at and Co which was just up the street from our Airbnb. This was an incredibly tasty bakery that Joe and I had walked by the day before. We ordered a cinnamon role, a chocolate croissant, and a raisin tea cake. If you can’t tell, everything smelled and looked so good that we had trouble deciding what to order. Once we got our order we walked outside and ate our breakfast on a bench right outside of the bakery, and then it was time to hit the road.
The first stop was Thingvellir which has a national park there. We had gotten so use to being on ring road that had a lot less tourists on it so we were surprised to see so many people! I can’t even imagine what it is like during peak season since September is getting into off season for Iceland. We started at the bathroom and were surprised to hear that it was almost 3$ to use the bathroom! After we paid to park, we set off to explore. The main attraction for us was the Fissure which is an area where two tectonic plates meet on land. We had talked about going and diving or snorkeling there but chickened out due to the cold water and having to put on dry suits! It was raining a bit during the walk and quite cold but it was really cool to see and there were a lot less people once you got off the main parking area.
Once we wrapped up at the national park we headed to the . Along the way it was already 2:00 so we decided to grab some lunch in at the bistro on the lake called . I had packed some PB&J so I sipped on some peppermint tea while Joe and Duncan ordered burgers and Allie got the lobster bisque. It wasn’t bad food but expensive for what it was. There aren’t many food options that are good on the Golden Circle so be prepared. After that we headed to the geothermal area. Again, there were a lot of people there so we didn’t spend much time there but it was really cool getting to see the go off a couple times!
From there we headed to Waterfall which was quite a stunning waterfall. We walked around a bit to stretch our legs but the paths are paved so there isn’t much hiking to do. From there, we decided we were pretty worn out and started the trek home. The last stop was Waterfall which was a bit off the path of the Golden Circle so it was nice feeling like we were the only people on the road and hiking again. It was the perfect way to finish up our site seeing. After that we headed back to Reykjavik.
We got back around 6 and spent an hour or so wrapping up shopping for souvenirs. Most of the stores stay open until 6 or 7 so we had plenty of options. Once we wrapped that up we went back to our room and tried to pack as much as we could before heading to dinner at 7:30. Kathryn, a high school friend of mine, happened to be in Iceland that night as well to start of her stay in Iceland so we met up with her and her husband for dinner at , one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik. It was so good seeing Kathryn again and getting to catch up and hear about her travels! Joe and I ordered the meat plate that had horse, goose, prosciutto, , and one or two more meats. It was a ton of food and the jelly on the platter was amazing! For the main course we split the pork belly and cat fish entrée. The nice thing about was that they even bring bread for the table. The food was amazing (Joe and I enjoyed trying some of Duncan and Allie's whale as well which was amazing) and the company was even better. It was the perfect way to wrap up the night.
After dinner we started the trek back and then Duncan decided that he wanted a crepe one last time from the crepe place down the street. After crepes we headed home and finished packing since we had an early flight the next morning!
We woke up at 5:30 and got the car packed and hit the road to the airport by 6. We got gas the night before so Joe dropped us off at the airport with the luggage while he went to drop off the car at the rental place. Once we got there I went to the tax return place to get the tax return for some of our purchases. We read that it can be a pain to get the money back on your card and it takes a lot of following up so I just got the money back in cash and then exchanged it after security. We also dropped off our wi-fi card in the mail that is located near the counters in a red mailbox. Once we took care of that we headed to the baggage drop line where we waited for over an hour just to drop our baggage. To say it was an inefficient process is an understatement! After we finally got through the baggage drop we had a couple customs to walk through which fortunately didn’t have lines. After I quickly exchanged our money for dollars we got to the gate only to find it was already last call (30 minutes before the flight). We took the shuttle to the airplane and pushed back early since everyone was on the flight.
The flight was 5 hours and 30 minutes so it was over before we knew it and we landed in NYC. We were all global entry so customs was a breeze (minus a ton of walking). After we tried to get on an earlier flight home (unfortunately it was full) we headed to lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings. If you can’t tell, there isn’t much chicken in Iceland so we were all in need of a good chicken meal. It might have been the worst service ever (it took at least 30 minutes for them to take our order and another 30-45 minutes to get our food) and we were one of about 5 people in the restaurant but luckily we had a long lay over. After we finished up we still had about 20 minutes so I went to grab a cupcake and then it was time to board. The flight to Atlanta took off a couple minutes late but we were airborne before we new it and headed home! A long Marta ride home and we were glad to be home after being gone for 12 days!
- Plan, like really plan: Joe spent hours and hours pulling together an itinerary. Although we gave him a hard time on our almost 50 page bound itinerary, it was what made the trip go smoothly. Without planning, there is no way you will hit all of the sites on Ring Road since most of them are off the main road and you won’t know what the best “side” of the waterfall to go to to get the best view, shortcuts on the roads that save you hours, etc.
- Be Spontaneous: As much as you plan, also leave room to make changes. We always knew our drive times, when to hit the main stops, but there was plenty of cushion to pull over and pet horses, walk to a random waterfall, or take in a beautiful view.
- Snacks are a must: When you are in the middle of nowhere, food can be hard to come by so snacks help a lot to hold you over between meals (especially since food is way cheaper at stores)
- Picnics can be fun: Gas station food isn’t bad but stopping for a picnic here and there will not only save you money but it will allow you to be more flexible with where you have to be at a certain times.
- Wi-fi was a life saver: We got an unlimited hot spot (~120$ for 11 days) and it worked near any house or village even on ring road. It was great to give us directions (on a preloaded google map) and gave us peace of mind as we were driving through the middle of nowhere.
- Ring Road requires 4 wheel drive: The roads can be rough! There is a lot of gravel roads and a lot of rain making driving not ideal. 4 wheel drive saved us plenty of times as we were driving through winding roads in thick fog and cliffs to one side!
- Watch out for sheep: On a side note, sheep wander everywhere so be careful coming over blind hills because you may be in for a fluffy surprise if you are going too fast and can’t brake quickly enough!
- Watch the weather/northern light forecast: We wanted to see the northern lights badly so we paid attention to the cloud coverage every night as well as the northern lights activity scale. It worked for us! Also, when flying to Reykjavik at night, if you can grab a window seat on the right side of plane (left when facing the pilot) because then you might get lucky like us and see them on your flight!
- Research Food Options: If you plan meals out and research, food in Iceland is amazing! Even in the small cities, dinners were amazing and some of the best we have ever had. That being said, we did a lot of research to make sure we enjoyed what we ate since meals no matter what are 30+ dollars per person normally so we wanted to make it worth the money!
- Plan: I cannot reiterate how important it is to plan for a vacation like this. If Reykjavik is home base then it may be easier to not plan but when you have a new hotel every night and the roads are bad, you want to know drive times, stops, meals, etc. so you can minimize driving at night. You also learn random facts like they ticket people based on speed cameras so make sure you drive the speed limit!