Wanderlust – Iceland

The place that it seems like all of your friends are suddenly obsess with and vacationing.

Last month I returned from an awesome Euro trip .  Iceland was the first stop on my adventure.  With only 3.5 days, we stayed mainly in the southwest coast of the country by Reykjavik/Keflavik.   This is not an exhausted or expert list but just some tips if you plan to go there (which you should… it’s super awesome)

What to Expect

  • Language barrier – There wasn’t any.  The official language is Icelandic, however, everyone we interacted with spoke English fluently.
  • $$$$ – It can be expensive. A round of drinks for my brother and I would cost $40. One lunch got up to $150+.  I hear flights and hotel are more expensive in the summertime vs winter.  No need to take money out.  We paid for everything with a credit card.
  • Summertime temperature was like the Pacific Northwest.  We had one warm sunny day but mostly it was about 60 degrees and cloudy.
  • While you can only see the Northern Lights in the wintertime, summertime sun is pretty awesome.  It literally never got dark.  It was kinda disorienting.
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My brother and I in Reykjavik at midnight

Food and Drink

  • Traditional Icelandic Foods – There’s lists that go in depth about traditional cuisine that are far better than anything I could create.  However, I am a “When in Rome” person and had to try something.  This nice little platter ended with fermented shark.  Let’s just say that I won’t try it again.
  •  Other Icelandic food – There is more than fermented shark in Iceland.  We found a great bakery by the airport called Valgeirs Bakari.  In Reykjavik, we probably found the only other Haitian person in Iceland at Cafe Haiti.  One of the best meals we had was at a Fjorubordid, a restaurant about 30 miles from Reykjavik.  And a trip to Iceland is not complete without hot dogs.
  • Grocery Shopping – Food and culture go hand in hand but sometimes that doesn’t work with our budget. If you want to save money, I recommend hitting up a grocery store for food and snacks.
  • Duty Free – Alcohol is taxed like crazy in Iceland.  Therefore, if you plan on drinking, buy alcohol at the duty free shop before you leave the airport
  • Drinking – If you are heading out for the evening, prepare for great music, good times, and 5am closing times!  For a cheap and local option, head to Ölsmiðjan.  Beers are $6, there’s couches, and the people watching and the local interaction is top notch.
  • Rent a car – you could see most of Reykjavik in one day and public transit is almost non existent. Therefore  if you wanted go anywhere else, it will cost you.  We figured out by the time we paid for cabs or had tour groups pick us up, we were spending over the cost of a rental.  Also, renting a car let’s you drive around and see the country.  It’s pretty easy to move around. There’s only a handful of rural highways that connects small towns to each other.

Activities

Snorkeling

  • Snorkeling through the Silfra where the two Continental plates meet was very relaxing and the clarity of water is ridiculous!  Apparently because it’s a national park, you can’t get in without a guide or a scuba certification.  The water is freezing temp but you don’t really feel it because of the layers under your dry suit (bring thermal underwear!).  My “dry” suit got the unfortunate and unlikely event of getting filled with water while I snorkeled.  I just stay in the water because I was already wet and the water in my suit warmed up to my body temp.
    • Would I recommend this: YES!
    • Would I do it again: Maybe.  If I do, I would bring a change of clothes.. just in case

       

Lava Tunnel

  • I did not know that Iceland had volcanoes?!?! This was a great find.  It was very informative and probably one of the most interesting this we did in Iceland.  Apparently this is a recently open lava tunnel tour. It was really cool walking through and the guide was great.  I only had a hoodie and a long sleeve.  In the cave it gets significantly colder the further you go.  I wish I had a light or medium jacket and gloves.  However, I survived the 60 mins and would have stayed in for more.
    • Would I recommend this: YES!
    • Would I do it again: YES!  There’s a 3 hour long extreme tour that I would do!

ATV

  • The last time I was on an ATV, I drove it into a wall.  This time around went a little better.  Got to drive around the country side.  Most of the the time, you are on a trail but there was a couple minutes of being on actual roads with other cars.  My brother was a natural.  I was a little nervous but after getting my bearings, it became a lot easier.  And the view at the top was totally worth it.  The guides were great and provided us with some recommendations on where to go around the city.
    • Would I recommend this: Yes if you like off-roading
    • Would I do it again: A different route maybe.

Blue Lagoon

  • The epitome of an Iceland vacation.  It’s like being in Orlando but not stopping at Disney.  Pick an early time because it gets busy!  Also, book days/weeks in advance because times slots of the day do sell out and it can get more expensive. Also, bring your own sandals and towel to save yourself about $20/person.  I would plan for about 2-3 hours to enjoy yourself.  I thought it would be bigger or have more things to do than just the geothermal spa.  The relaxation area only had like 10 seats and the food area only about 20.  Since you can’t sit outside because it’s cold it makes seating an issue.  They were doing renovation, so maybe that’s why there’s not room indoors.
    • Would I recommend this: Not really.  At the end of the day, it just a big natural hot tub.  I mean definately go to a geothermal pool.  Do you need pay $100 to go to one that has a mud mask…nope.
    • Would I do it again: Nope.  I would rather hike somewhere to some remote pool and save the money.

After the Blue Lagoon, we stopped by a bakery and headed off to our next destination on the Euro trip.  Iceland was amazing and I would totally go back.  You should go.  All the cool kids are doing it!

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