Traveling to Iceland has always been a dream of mine. Something about the vast, raw landscape and the term "land of fire and ice" awoke a primal urge inside me wanting to return to a natural source.
A land where everything meets nothing.
I know I'm not alone in that urge - many close friends have shared that same desire themselves. Something about the island of Iceland feels beautifully raw and spacious.
Since many of you have asked about this trip, I'm sharing a few pictures with you along with some recommendations on where to stay and what to do.
When I was looking around the net, I found this great post with some great tips for summer travel in Iceland and it was tremendously helpful.
First off, we went in the summertime. Which means we couldn't see any northern lights because the sun is shining 23 hours a day (which is a total duh now, but took me a while to realize beforehand).
That was a big adjustment for us, all the sun. I highly recommend bringing an eye mask, earplugs, and melatonin to help adjust to the sun and get some good sleep.
The Blue Lagoon
Our IcelandAir flight got in at 6am, so we took a shuttle straight to the famous Blue Lagoon (which is just 20 mins from the airport). I highly recommend doing this because it's the least crowded right when it opens at 8am and you are more likely to get in without needing a reservation.
To be clear, the blue lagoon is nothing more than wastewater from a nearby geothermal treatment plant. It's simply well branded (and non-toxic, don't worry). If you want to spend less money for a similar experience, there's another version in the northern region called Myvatn Nature Baths that I really liked as well.
That being said, the Blue Lagoon experience is lovely. My skin felt so good after getting out of the water and my whole body relaxed after many hours on a plane.
A few more tips:
- Drink a lot of water before, during, and after the pools. It's very easy to get dehydrated there which is no bueno.
- Don't get your hair wet unless it's been pre-coated with conditioner. The water will dry your hair out and it'll feel like hay for days afterwards.
- Go right when you land or before you take off to ease your body into the transition and jet-lag.
City of Reykjavik
Reykjavik is a lovely city with a lot of great restaurants and shops. We stayed at the hip KEX Hostel, which I highly recommend. We got a private double room with a shared bathroom and enjoyed live music in the evenings at the bar. There's also excellent wifi and the most delicious breakfast of all time.
Other Reykjavik Tips:
- Eat yummy pho at Noodle Station
- Grab fresh green juice and smoothies at Heilsuhusid
- Grab some coffee and do some window shopping on the main walking street, Laugavegur.
A note on eating gluten free in Iceland: Tim is strictly gluten free and we had no problems anywhere in the country asking for gluten free options for all our meals. Many guest houses could even provide us with gluten free bread at breakfast.
Before we set off on our 10-day road trip around the country, we stayed at the ION Adventure Eco Hotel - about 30 mins outside of Reykjavik. I was super excited about staying here because it's housed in an old administrative building of a nearby geothermal power plant and has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the raw volcanic landscape.
The hotel was beautiful and, despite the smell of sulphuric rotten eggs everywhere (a common aroma of Iceland), we really enjoyed it.
The summer wildflowers are spectacular in Iceland. The purple lupin is everywhere, like a blanket covering the countryside. Several times, I made Tim pull over just so I could lay in them and get lost in a sea of delicate lilac-colored petals.
For the rest of the trip, we rented a car and drove around the Ring Road (the highway circling the perimeter of the country) and stayed at farm guesthouses along the way. We coordinated our car and accommodations through Icelandic Farm Holidays, which I also recommend. We told them where we wanted to go and what we wanted to experience, and they took care of the rest.
Roughly 350,000 people live in Iceland and over 1 million people travel there every summer, so booking accommodation ahead of time is a smart move. What I loved about Icelandic Farm Holidays is they connect you with small farms that take great care with serving delicious local and organic food and preparing lovely rooms with personal touches. Some of my favorite places on the trip were the little guest houses we stayed in along the way - some of which were from the 1800s.
There are horses and sheep everywhere. It's an animal lover's dream.
The main food staples is lamb and fish, and they are delicious delicious. The lamb is naturally grass-fed and the fish is fresh from the sea. I highly recommend tasting the langoustine, Icelandic lobster.
Vegetables in Iceland are not amazing in the countryside. Nearly all of the veggies are grown in geothermic powered greenhouses or imported from Europe. We had a lot of beet salad and cucumbers.
Icelanders believe in elves. Yes, elves.
If that isn't a reason to visit, I don't know what is.
When driving around the country, you'll see little houses and doors against rocks meant for the elves to live and in and go in and out of the mountains. And if you make fun of this belief to a native Icelander, then you have made a grave mistake. Nearly all of the tour guides we listened to would mention elf folklore right alongside geological history. They may be invisible, but they are there - protecting and honoring the land.
Turf huts makes you feel like you are in Middle Earth.
The geothermal activity of the country makes for some amazing natural hot springs (or "hot pot") adventures. Bring your swim suit and quick-dry towel and keep it in your daypack at all times. We stumbled upon hot springs at least once a day.
The water in Iceland is amazing. Everywhere you look, it's flowing. The glaciers, the frost, the rivers and the waterfalls. And it's so pure, you can dip your glass or canteen into the stream and drink it straight. After 2 weeks of drinking Iceland's water, my skin was more supple and I felt amazing. Whenever I told a local the coffee was good, they would look at me and tell me, "it's the water, dear."
Buying bottled water in Iceland is a rookie move. Just bring a canteen and enjoy it from the tap or stream.
Have you traveled to Iceland and have any more tips to share? I'd love to hear them. Also, what are your dream travel destinations? Let me know in the comments below.
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