Iceland; the land of vikings, volcanoes and geysers galore. I had the absolute pleasure of spending a few short, (nearly sunless) days exploring this beautiful nordic country. From strolling through Reykjavik to driving through the mountainous countryside, Nick and I were able to see a lot of what Iceland has to offer and I can’t wait to go back!
Upon arriving in Iceland Tuesday evening, we had some luggage collection drama at the airport, but luckily once that was settled we were able to go off and begin our adventure. We stepped out of the small Keflavik airport and out into the fresh, Icelandic air to mosey our way towards the bus stop for the shuttle that would take us to our car rental. The week of our departure to Iceland, we started to nail down an itinerary and map out what we wanted to see in the country, unlike most of the other destinations we’ve explored thus far, the public transit system wasn’t going to get us very far in this country so we had decided to rent a car. We rented a modern hatchback through the rental company, Sixt. The whole process was super easy and stress-free! After picking up our car, we made our way to the hotel to drop off our luggage and get ready for the evening. Our first night was pretty low-key; we spent the night driving around the city, checking out some shops and buying snacks for our on-again-off-again road trip that we would be taking throughout the country. Soon enough, we decided to call it a night because we had an early day on Wednesday.
Wednesday morning we got up early and headed to the breakfast buffet at our hotel. Nick and I were both impressed by this buffet, it was surprisingly well-stocked. I find that most hotels that offer complimentary breakfast, the options are underwhelming. Typically you’ll be offered the basics like a hot drink, juice and then some fruit, cereal or toast. But, this buffet had all of that and way more! After filling up on free food, we packed up the car and headed out to the Blue Lagoon. The spa offers different ticket packages, and each package has different experiences included. Prior to arriving, Nick and I had purchased the “Luxury” ticket package. Essentially, this allowed us access to all the amenities at the spa, three free face masks, a free drink and a bathrobe, slippers and a towel each. The tickets themselves were pricey, but being as this was the Blue Lagoon and probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we said “Fuck it”, and bought them anyways. Our time at the spa was really enjoyable! The staff were friendly and knowledgeable, the grounds were absolutely beautiful and the actual experience the spa offers was unique. We arrived at the spa around 10:30, with our tickets we were able to bypass the giant line of people that were already queuing and get ourselves checked in and ready for the day. At check-in, they gave each of us a waterproof bracelet that basically had our ticket package information loaded onto it, so whenever we accessed one of the amenities that were included in our tickets, they would scan our bracelet and then that experience was deducted from the account. Anything beyond that, would be added to our bracelet’s account and then we could pay for them at the end of our stay. The bracelets made everything incredibly convenient! We spent quite a few hours exploring the grounds at the spa; from lounging in the hot springs, to saunas and steam rooms, there were quite a few opportunities to sit back and relax. Once we had become succinctly pruney from being in the water for so long, we decided it was best to move onto our next destination. The plan was to drive from the Blue Lagoon to the famous Black Sand Beach, unfortunately I didn’t take into account that Iceland is an extremely northern country and therefore doesn’t get a lot of sunlight around this time of year. By the time we had left the spa, the sun had already begun to set and we didn’t have nearly enough daylight to drive the four hours to the beach and then actually be able to see and experience the beach. I mean, if it’s pitch black out by 5:30PM, it doesn’t matter what beach you’re on, the sand is gonna look black either way. It was definitely a bummer upon realizing that we wouldn’t be able to make it to the beach, but it brought us to our next unexpected adventure. Knowing we weren’t going to make it in time, we decided just to drive around and blindly explore a little bit while we still had daylight. To my delight and to Nick’s dismay, Google Maps took us on a completely backroad, countryside adventure and it was so beautiful and picturesque everywhere you looked. Nick was white-knuckling the steering wheel the whole drive because of the icy roads, sheer-drop cliffs, and rollercoaster-y hills, but I had the time of my life being a passenger. Once it was too dark to see anything, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and get ready for our next adventure. We were hoping to find the Northern Lights by driving to the places where they are most often located. But, after arriving to the hotel, Nick was tired of driving and wasn’t super keen on driving through isolated areas at night. Lucky for us, the front desk was advertising a tour group that was departing in a couple of hours. We grabbed a couple of tickets and waited for our time to go. When it was time to go, we went to the pickup location which was across the street by our hotel, we waited there with the rest of the tourists and loaded up in the big tour bus. The tour took us about 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik to a place where the lights are known to show up. Lucky for us, the night we went out to search for the Northern Lights, was the same night as the Gemini meteor shower. We spent the first couple of hours walking through the dark forest, with our heads tilted towards the sky. We were desperate for the Northern Lights to show themselves behind the clouds, because it was unfortunately a cloudy night. But, we had the Gemini meteor shower to watch while we waited. The clouds started rolling in more and we couldn’t see anything anymore, so we headed back to the tour bus to wait to go back to our hotel. While sitting on the bus with a few other people, we suddenly heard screaming and laughing coming from the group still outside. Assuming that the lights had finally started dancing through the sky, Nick and I hauled ass out of the bus and ran back into the forest to where we were greeted by the green, misty clouds of the Northern Lights. In the moment, the lights were a little underwhelming because you see all these photographs online of these crazy, colourful shapes floating through the sky and we were only able to see varying shades of green. But, the lights are a crapshoot and you never really know what to expect when you go out searching for them. It’s still cool to be able to say that I’ve seen the Northern Lights!
Thursday morning was similar to Wednesday’s, we woke up early, grabbed breakfast at the hotel buffet and headed out to drive the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a road-trip that you can do in a day; it is a sightseeing tour that takes you through the southwest of Iceland and has world-renowned stops along the route. Having our own vehicle to drive the Golden Circle route was so nice, we were able to take our time at each spot and take detours along the way if we wanted too. Our first stop was Kerið; a volcanic crater lake located in Grímsnes. Once we pulled in, we had to pay a small fee per person to gain access to the site. We walked the icy rim of the crater as the sun was rising and took some photographs. I almost fell and died, but I didn’t so, yay! Next stop was the Strokkur geyser, which is an active geyser that spouts boiling hot water around 100ft into the air every five to ten minutes. Our next stop was a bit of a drive and had lots of natural scenery to take in as we drove by. But, my favourite part of the next leg of our journey was the ponies; there was a farm on the side of the road that allowed people to pull over and socialize with their horses and feed them. It was a great time, I refilled the horse-snack cup half a dozen times so I could feed all the horses. But, when Nick tried the horse bit him. After I had spent nearly all of my loose change on horse feed, we piled back into the car to make our way to the next destination, the Gullfoss falls. The falls were pretty, but packed with tourists so, we didn’t spend much time here before heading out to our next stop. It was beginning to get dark by the time we made it to Thingvellir National Park, so we didn’t spend too much time here either as we still had one more destination afterwards. The park showcases a geological formations in the rift valley between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates and is also a World Heritage Site. I think this is more of a warm-weather destination, most of the park was covered in ice and snow and I don’t think that it really lived up to it’s full potential as you couldn’t really tell what anything was. But, we were lucky enough to see the sky change over the park from bright daylight to purple and pink. Finally, we made our way to the lake. Being as it’s the middle of December and Iceland actually gets properly cold in the winter, there wasn’t a lot to do at the lake this time of the year besides look at it. After we got an eyeful of the lake, we loaded back up into the car to journey back to the hotel for our final night in Iceland.
We took it easy our final night in Reykjavik; spent some time wandering the streets and grabbing dinner in the hotel restaurant was about all we got up too as we were flying out Friday morning to travel back to Canada for the holidays.
Iceland was stunning; it was a photographer’s dream. I literally had over 800 photographs from the trip by the time we left and spent nearly my whole six hour flight home editing them all. My only regret with this trip is that I didn’t have more time to explore the country. But, that at least gives me an excuse to go back for another trip (when it’s warm).