Yet another blog on Iceland. It seems like everyone has been hitting up Iceland to chase the NorthernLight, but only a few has succeeded. I am one of those who has failed at that mission (a mission that’s nearly impossible). The best time to chase those lights would be between end of November to end of March (varies year to year).
I visited at the end of May, so no luck for me. I will go back again in a few years during the winter to try my luck again. Iceland is one of those country that I would visit at least twice (once in summer and once in winter) because you’ll get to see two completely different views of the land. During the summer, you’ll get days where there are no darkness whereas during the winter, you’ll get only a few hours of daylight. When I was there, I got only about 2.5 hours of darkness. At 12:00am, it felt like 7:00pm in the West Coast (interesting experience).
I had Icelandic friends who took me around, so the schedule may not be as jam pack as you like. With that being said, as always, feel free to use my itinerary and add your flare to it! I also inserted Google map for each of the places I visited, so click on the name of the place to find exact the location.
Day 1: My flight landed at 1:00pm and my friend took me to see few small tourist sites as we work our way back to Reykjavik. First recommendation, don’t try to do a long drive after landing. The road in Iceland is not as easy to drive as may think, especially during the winters. Reykjavik is about 45 minutes out from the airport, so rest in the city for a night before you press on your gas peddle.On route to Reykjavik, you can see a small light house, a geothermal volcano and a bridge between continents. Bridge between the continents is a spot you wouldn’t want to miss. Heck, how often is it that you get to say you’re right in between 2 different continents?
Once you’re into the city, the Hallgrimskirkja Church is another tourist attraction. It’s the largest and tallest structure in Iceland. You can also get a clear view of the church on top of the National Museum.For dinner, I would recommend Messinn, which serves amazing pan fried fish. The fish was served in the same pan it was cooked in and it literally melted in my mouth. I would say this was one of the best dinner I had in Iceland. Food in general is extremely expensive in Iceland, so on average, I would budget $20.00 USD per meal.
Day 2: The time difference between West Coast and Iceland is 7 hours, so I had a difficult time sleeping and waking up. I began my day by visiting the National Museum to get a panoramic view of the city. The weather was not as nice as I hoped, but the view was definitely breath taking. If you’re looking to travel out of town on your second day, then I would visit the museum upon your arrival. Be sure to check the museum hours before visiting (it closes 5:00pm when I visited).Next up, Solfario (Sun Voyager, i.e. boat sculpture). You should make a stop here to take one of those touristy pictures! Come on, you traveled long and far, might as well do it! Solfario is along the coast, so if you have extra time, you can walk along the coast to the Harpa Concert Hall. Next time I’m in Iceland, I plan to watch a show in Harpa. If you only have a few days in Iceland, I would suggest combining these two stops with your day 1 itinerary.After strolling the city, the real Iceland adventure begins! The Golden Circle is a trip that all tourists take. There are lots tour bus options if you’re not planning on renting a car or if you are only planning on doing a one day stop at Iceland. The Thingvellir National Park is where we began. You’ll hear me say this over and over again; the view is incredible and no picture can do justice. From the park, you can either hike your way to Oxararfoss or drive around to the other side of the mountain to get a shorter hike to the water fall. Want to see the water yourself? Here you go!Next stop, Geysir. Watch the active volcano explode! It makes me smile every time I watch the video. I would recommend spending 15 – 30 minutes at Geysir if you’re looking for that perfect shot/video.Hear the beautiful sound the water fall! I cannot even begin to describe how beautiful Gullfoss Waterfall was. I was extremely lucky to have the sun hitting the water at a perfect angle where it created numerous rainbows. How often do you get to say I’ve seen a complete rainbow over the skyline from one end of the mountain to another?!?!? If you’ve never been to Iceland during the spring/summer, then you need to! Gullfoss was a perfect way to end our day!We ended our day 2 at Sushi Social for dinner. Sushi Social is a French & Japanese fusion restaurant. We got sushi, beef tenderloin, and chocolate browny. Delicious, tasteful and fulfilling meal over all.
Day 3: There are so many beautiful water falls in Iceland. Seljalandsfoss is another one of my favorite because you get to walk behind the water fall and experience it (literally experience it, in other words soaking wet) from inside the cave. As some of you may know, at that point of my life, I had been unemployed for about 3.5 months. I felt like God was against me every step of the job searching process. He was closing doors left and right. But, at that moment, I looked up in the sky and and reminded myself, God has a reason for everything and I just need to let him lead the way as much as I want to fight it!There are 4 different water falls here. I would spend at least 1 hour here so you can take your time to climb up and behind each of the different water falls. Dress in water proof clothes and shoes if you do plan to climb in the water fall cave furtherest to your left (when you’re facing it).
From Seljalandsfoss, we traveled 1.5 hours to Jokulsarlon-Glacier Lagoon. Visiting the ice caves was one of my bucket lists; however, the tour is only open from November to April, so visiting the Glacier was a compromise that my friend came up with. The long drive to see the glacier was definitely worth it. You get to see glacier and sea otters swimming up front and personal. Take the time to drive to the opposite side of the glacier to see pieces of the broken glaciers lying on the black sand. The water seeping through the broken ice-cubes on the black sand is a sight you’ll want to see. Another great end to my day (day 3)!
If your last stop of the day was the glacier, then you’ll want to find lodges either further East if you want to drive further to loop back to Akureyri. Or, if you plan to head back to Reykjavik, then you’ll want to find a place to stay on your on route. It may be too far to head back to Reykjavik since you’re about 4 – 5 hours out from it. I took the latter route.
Day 4: Fjaorarglijufur was the first stop. Think about Fjaorarglijufu as the Grand Canon of Iceland. It takes about 1 hour to climb to the top. I took too long to take pictures, so I didn’t get a chance to make it to the top. The green and gold grass contrast with the blue stream was beautiful. I can only imagine how winter wonderlandish this place can look like during the winters.
Next stop is the famous Black Sand Beach. Take time to walk along the coast and not just stop at the entrance. You’ll get better pictures at the end-of-the shore since there are less tourist. Additionally, you’ll get closer view of the rock with the ocean and sky as the background, which is a picture you wouldn’t want to miss.
Skogafoss can be a quick stop. You can walk along the side of the rock to get a closer view, but it’s one of the smaller water falls that Iceland has to offer. I was lucky enough again to catch not 1 but 2 rainbows together.
Final stop of the day was at Selijavallalaug. Selijavallalaug is a hidden natural hot spring that’s about 30 minutes walk into the mountain. Honestly, it’s not really sanitized and the changing is actually kind of dirty. I figured I was already at the spring, so why not take a quick dip. The water is barely warm and has a of ‘stuff’ at the bottom. If you’re brave enough, then go for it. I probably would be ok skipping this hot spring.
As for dinner? As I’ve mentioned earlier, I was traveling with Icelandic friends, so this is one perks. The mama cooked up some lamb, potatoes, and salad for dinner! Man, Icelandic lamb was not gamey at all and it’s incredible tender. For dessert, we got a baked meringue with fresh custard filled cake. Yummy!
Day 5: I used half the day shopping at the mall hoping to buy some souvenirs; however, it was too expensive. I ate a burger bar in the mall and headed-out to my friend’s summer house. If you want to drive around the whole Iceland, day 5 is where you can make a drive. You’ll need to flip fop day 3 and 4, so you can continue to drive East from the glacier point to Akureyri (5 – 6 hours drive). From Akureyri, it will you about 4 hours south to get to Reykjavik.
Day 6: It was another chillax day for my crew and I since we had one too many beer pervious night. I visited an inactive volcano, Kerio, which was only a short drive from where I stayed. You can easily put Kerio as one of your stop when you do your Golden Circle tour. There is a $4.00 USD entry fee. I heard from the Icelanders that Iceland government is planning on charging entry fees to many of the tourist sites shortly (not cool!). You’ll get a different view of Kerio as you walk around the upper outer circle (about 20 minutes if you don’t stop to take photos).
The second last stop of my trip was at the Blue Lagoon! Blue Lagoon is as amazing as you see on the pictures. You are sitting in a natural geothermal outdoor pool. There is no other experiences like this in the world. Be sure to book your ticket(s) at least a week in advance ($70.00 USD per ticket). There are so many tourist here now a days that the lagoon simply cannot accommodate the people. Oh, don’t forget to have a beer or two while you’re in the pool too. Also, plan on spending at least 1 hour here because you’ll never want to leave.
Day 7: My flight out of Iceland was at 6:00pm, so it was a perfect time for me to sneak a horse back riding session. The Icelandic horses are SO ADORABLE! I called mine the Icelandic surf boy. My friend recommended Laxnes Horse Farm for a 2 hour horseback riding session for $100. It’s more expensive to horseback ride in Iceland, but where else in the world can you ride a Icelandic horse than in Iceland?
I’m trying to figure out how to describe the horseback riding session with you; however, I simply do have words for it. It was like a movie/fairytale because the scenery was incredibly beautiful. You’re surrounded by mountain on both sides with the cold breeze gently blowing over your face and sunlight slightly warming your body. I would do it again in a heartbeat! Definitely great choice wrap-up my Iceland trip until the next time!!!
More Iceland Memories
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* Blue Lagoon needs to be book in-advance, so book it at least 1 week before you travel
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