Last week we checked another country off our bucket list- Iceland! While it was a quick trip (we were only there 4 days) we packed a lot of activities in, and immersed ourselves in the Icelandic culture. Along with the photos we’re excited to share with you today, we took lots of video footage during our trip that Shelby edited and compiled into a video you can watch at the end of this post. Now you can feel like you’ve come on the adventure to Reykjavik, Iceland with us!
The landscape of Iceland is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s covered in volcanic rock, very mountainous, and very little plants, trees, or wildlife. Actually, as we were landing and I first caught a glimpse of land, I told Shelbs and Allix it looked like we were landing on Mars.
We flew Icelandair direct from JFK to Reykjavik. The flight is only about 5 hours, but we flew overnight, landing in Reykjavik bright and early.
We started the day with a walking tour of Reykjavik. It was a great way to start our trip, get a feel for the city, as well as stay awake and alert since we were going on little to no sleep. Hallgrímskirkja is the name of the church behind us, and is one of the tallest buildings in the city. The top of the tower offers beautiful panoramic views of Reykjavik.
The afternoon of our first day we went on a whale watching boat tour. Sadly, we saw no whales, and all ending up getting incredibly seasick, so overall it was not the best three hours of the trip.
On day two, we went on a Golden Circle bus tour. It was fun to get out of the city to see some of the Icelandic countryside, as well as get to learn more about the history and natural landscapes. We were picked up from our hotel in a comfortable mini-bus, with about 18 others, treated to a knowledgeable commentary on the history, geography and geology of the golden circle and ended it with a swim in the secret lagoon, Iceland’s oldest geothermal swimming pool. The timing of the tour avoided the crowds at each stop-off and the lovely fresh towels, provided for the swim, were a great touch.
Our first stop of the day was Þingvellir National Park. It was a beautiful day! Major events in the history of Iceland have taken place at Þingvellir and therefore the place is held in high esteem by all Icelanders.
Our second stop of the day was at Gullfoss waterfall. This happened to be Earth Day, and it was really powerful to stand and literally observe Mother Nature’s power through this gigantic waterfall.
After the waterfall, our bus driver pulled off the side of the road so we could pet some Icelandic horses. The Icelandic horse is a unique breed of smallish horses, but don’t call them ponies, they take great offense to that term.
The last stop of the day was for a dip in the Secret Lagoon. Although the pool is man-made, the water for it comes from a nearby geyser.
On day three, we were supposed to do another day trip to go hiking on a glacier, but due to a mix up with our bus pick up, we missed the tour. So we had to scramble to come up with a plan B for the day.
This happened to be Allix’s birthday, and in our hurried search for last minute things to do in Reykjavik, Shelby and I stumbled upon the Whales of Iceland museum. Allix is OBSESSED with whales, so we knew we’d need to fit this in- especially since we missed out on seeing actual whales on our boat tour. The museum itself is small (as small as a museum with about 20 life-size whales can be) and doesn’t take longer than a total of 30 minutes to walk through.
We wanted to get out of the city, so we booked a last minute tour through Laxnes Horse Farm to go horseback riding through the Mofellsdalur valley surrounded by the beautiful snow-capped mountains. While this probably wasn’t the best activity for someone with a broken shoulder, the ride was so much fun I tried to ignore the pain. While most horses have three gaits: walk, trot and gallop, the Icelandic horse has two extra gates. Icelanders call them tolt and skeid (pace), with the tolt gate being better known throughout the world. If you watch a horse in tolt, you can see that the horse carries the rider perfectly still in the saddle, without the tossing movement of the trot. So I guess if I was going to ride a horse with a broken shoulder, riding an Icelandic horse that doesn’t toss me around in the saddle was the way to go.
On our last morning we woke up early to grab a coffee from Reykjavik Roasters. Many locals had mentioned that this was the best cup of coffee in the city, and it did not disappoint.
We stopped by the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. After horseback riding the day prior, we were SO SORE, and looking forward to soaking our muscles in the warm mineral rich water, and relaxing after a jam packed few days. This ended up being our favorite part of the trip. We were there about 3 hours, but could have easily stayed longer. Between the silica mud masks and the swim up bar, this place was pretty much heaven on earth.
After showering and grabbing a quick lunch in the cafe, we were off to the airport and headed back home to New York.
A few general observations about Iceland-
Most stores don’t open until 9 or 10 AM and close by 5 or 6 PM.
We never saw at drug store or pharmacy (that we know of) and the main grocery store chain closes at 6PM.
I saw a total of 2 ATMs the whole trip, and one of those was at the bus depot. Never saw a bank. Every shop/store takes credit cards- even the hot dog stand. I couldn’t tell you what Icelandic currency looks like, as I never saw it.
During the summer months the sun is only set for a few hours. It was close to midnight before it was fully dark outside.
Literally everyone speaks English. They learn it in school. The street signs are in Icelandic, and some of the store names, but all restaurant menus were in English.
90% of the tourists we came across were from the United States.
Iceland has a very low crime rate. I only saw one police officer the whole trip and that was on the way to the airport the last day.
The weather changes frequently and is hard to predict. On our various bus rides it was common to go from sunshine to rain to snow, and back to sunshine again over the span of a few minutes. The actual temperature is a little deceiving as it doesn’t seem that cold. However, it’s incredibly windy resulting in a windchill temperature often 15 degrees cooler.
For a further peek into our time in Iceland be sure to watch our Iceland Vlog below: