If you’ve ready my Paris blog, you will understand how much I was dreading the flight to Iceland. I kept having flashbacks to my previous long, cramped, hot flight and I was so not looking forward to this one.
I am happy to report this one was nothing like that though! We had a nonstop flight from Kansas City to Reykjavik (Keflavik Airport in Reykjanesbær technically) and it could not have gone smoother. It only took about 5 hours which was incredible and having learned our previous lesson well, purchased the seat upgrade with more leg room.
After an enjoyable flight, we had to wait a couple hours before boarding our bus to our first destination of the trip - Blue Lagoon.
Blue Lagoon is a beautiful resort/spa featuring the geothermal waters of Iceland (which are dotted all across the volcanic island). Not having any sleep, we thought this would be the perfect way to begin the vacation….and it was.
Having just rained (which it did off and on the whole trip) the weather was clear, crisp, and clean. It felt refreshing and wonderful. During the ride to the Blue Lagoon I was mesmerized by the landscape. A feeling I would not lose the entire trip.
After a few hours here, we spent the rest of the day walking around downtown Reykjavik just to get acquainted with the area.
Day 2 | September 3, 2018
Prior to leaving for the trip, we of course plotted out some things we wanted to do and booked a few tours. The first of which was to occur on this day - a tour of the South Coast. Now, picture a hot summer evening on my back deck with a beverage in hand while my wife and I were surfing the internet clicking on anything that looked fun to do in Iceland. We learned a valuable lesson that night….always read the fine print.
A tour bus came and picked us up early at our hotel which was right on the harbor. Expecting a casual day of fun we were eager to begin our adventure after our morning coffee.
The scenery enroute to our first destination was spectacular, but even that paled in comparison to what was waiting for us the rest of the day. Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
What is unique here is you can actually walk behind the waterfall which offers fantastic views.
Since Iceland is home to over 10,000 waterfalls this was not going to be last one we saw. Next stop was the massive Skógafoss waterfall which stands over 60 meters high. The site was so breathtaking, a young local couple was actually having their wedding photos taken at the picturesque base while we were there.
Now comes the part where reading the fine print would have come in handy. While enjoying a beer we had packed with us on the bus, we heard our guide, Sigi, mention a glacier we’re going to see...that’s cool…..uh, wait, did he just say climb? After outfitting with some ropes, crampons, helmets and ice axes; up we went the Sólheimajökull glacier.
As you might imagine, our energy reserves were running a bit low at this point. However, we weren’t done. After the glacier hike we headed out to Sólheimasandur desert where a US Navy DC3 crash landed in 1973 after running out of fuel in midair. Since the crash is a good 3 miles from the road, some fat tire bikes got us the rest of the way there.
The tour thoughtfully scheduled a stop at one of the many outdoor geothermal swimming pools (Seljavallalaug)that dot the island. Since we had just spent an entire day at an outdoor geothermal spa, we used the opportunity to walk around and explore the lovely valley the pool sat in.
The night and rain had finally descended upon us, but one last surprise was waiting. Sigi had just informed us (well, it us news to us anyway) we had arrived at a secret lava cave we were going to explore.
Some 5,000 years ago a volcanic eruption had formed this underground cave. With helmets and flashlight, we descended into the dark void.
Finally, we were able to call in a night. After arriving back at our hotel we walked over to a nearby brewery (Bryggjan Brugghus) for a wonderful dinner and a much needed drink!
Day 3 | September 4, 2018
Having pretty much hit the ground running since our arrival, I was greatly looking forward to this day as it was the first opportunity not to be bound by a schedule. We had the freedom to aimlessly wander and explore the city of Reykjavik. The first stop, as always, was coffee. This time it was at a quaint diner close to our hotel, Kaffivagninn.
After some caffeine and delicious food, we ventured out.
Our wandering eventually lead us to Dómkirkja Krists, a beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral built in 1929.
Next stop was at the most iconic church in Iceland, Hallgrímskirkja.
Not that we were that hungry, but we came across a charming restaurant (ROK) and had to stop in for a quick bite and beverage.
After enjoying the fish stew (described by the bartender as something your grandmother would lovingly make) we decided to walk along the water for some coastal sights.
Much to our delight, we stumbled upon the sun voyager sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason. “The artist intended it to convey the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom”.
We continued on with our day just enjoying the leisurely pace and soaking up the sun's warm rays (which included snacking on a pastry at Sandholt). Our late afternoon of wandering offered some spectacular views of the harbor.
With night now upon us, we had the best meal of the trip which was dinner at KOL (yes, more food - don’t judge). The atmosphere was warm and inviting, and the food simply wonderful. The perfect end to the day.
Day 4 | September 5, 2018
First thing in the morning, we walked to the city center for breakfast at Bergsson Mathus. It was very similar to an American coffee shop/cafe. We knew we would be needing our caffeine fueled energy on this day, as it was to be a long one. We had booked a Jeep tour of the southern region of Iceland known as the Golden Circle which was going to end with a late night pursuit of the Northern Lights.
First stop, however, was at Thingvellir National Park, an UNESCO World Heritage site. We walked by the largest natural lake in Iceland (Lake Þingvallavatn) then through the park where the world’s first parliament met in 930 AD and some scenes of “Game of Thrones” was filmed.
The couple traveling with us this day had the brilliant idea to stop for ice cream and our guide immediately took us to Efstidalur II which is a nearby working dairy farm. The ice cream was delicious and well worth the unplanned stop.
Having satisfied our sweet tooths, we headed on to Geysir which is a geothermal field of hot springs. The main attraction is Strokkur which erupts every 10 minutes or so.
From here we continued to Gullfoss Waterfall whose name means “Golden Falls” and indeed they were on this sunny afternoon. It was massive and spectacular.
We headed back to Reykjavik for pizza at Hornid, then we met back up with our tour guide around 10pm in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights. He was able to capture these photos.
Day 5 | September 6, 2018
During the trip we decided we had time to book another tour. Originally, we thought we’d spend this day still exploring Reykjavik, but it’s small enough where we felt we had already done that pretty thoroughly.
We booked a large group tour to check out the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. While the large group isn’t typically our thing, we ultimately thought it would be fun.
After some coffee from the hotel, we loaded up onto a bus with 15 of our closest friends and headed out to the small fishing village of Grundarfjörður.
Enroute, we had a rest stop and saw this beautiful waterfall and lake by the side of the road. It was super windy (common for Iceland) but worth the view.
Grundarfjörður is a quaint little town right on the edge of the water. We broke away from the main group and did a little exploring on our own.
This was such a lovely little town I didn’t want to leave. While we were there, I enjoyed a delicious bowl of fish soup @ Cafe Emil which is an interesting blend of bookstore/cafe/library.
As we continued on, we arrived as Kirkjufellsfoss - another breathtaking waterfall. With the neighboring mountains it made for a majestic scene.
The scenery in Iceland is beyond description. With the lush, green moss, picturesque coastline, and stunning mountains you feel both in awe and calm. There is nothing quite like it. This is exactly how I felt when we drove to Djúpalónssandur. It’s a beach with black sand/stones and unlike anything I had ever seen before. Once home to around 60 fishing boats (remains can still be seen) it is now deserted and offering views that are uniquely Iceland.
Our final push of the day brought us to Arnarstapi which is on the southern edge of the peninsula.
After watching some playful seals we made an unexpected stop along the side of the road to get a closer look at the Icelandic horses that dotted the countryside. Finally, we had another delicious meal at Grillmarkaðurinn.
Day 6 | September 7, 2018
Our last day in Iceland was really only a half day as our flight back to reality was scheduled for later in the afternoon. As such, we took one last stroll through Reykjavik grateful for the time we had, but wishing it could be more.