Day 0: Travel
Left New York City at 9pm for our overnight flight to Iceland. Pro: the flight was only 4 and a half hours. Con: the flight was only four and a half hours and we anticipated sleeping on the plane to prepare for a full day ahead. I think we slept like 30 minutes.
Day 1: Golden Circle and Reykjavik
Landed. Got through the speediest customs ever around 6:30am. Thank goodness for Dunkin' Donuts and their giant iced coffees at Keflavik International Airport!
Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a smooth and scenic 190-mile drive round trip that can be done (with sight-seeing stops) in three to five hours. Our time was more like seven or eight hours because we lingered at the sights and took several car naps. We are officially too old to hit the ground running after a red-eye. Luckily we could park our car in random parking lots and sleep for a few minutes because Iceland is chill like that.
Thingvellier National Park. Where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet.
Geysir Hot Spring Area. The geysers erupt every 7-10 minutes and the rest stop area across the street has delicious soup.
Gulfoss Waterfall. You get wet but it’s so worth it.
Reykjavik. We stayed at the sweetest AirBnb apartment in the heart of Reykjavik. We were too tired to get dressed up for dinner, so we got bread, smoked fish, cheese, spectacular tomatoes (Iceland is known for them), and black salted liquorice at a local grocery store. Since it’s July, the sun never really sets - it gets a little dusky around 11pm and then back at it at 3am.
Day 2: Reykjavik To Vik
Reykjavik. Spent the better part of the morning wandering around Reykjavik, which is cute, clean, artsy, and has great shops! The views of the water are spectacular. Since Lorenzo declared that he was tired of shopping after like seven minutes, we went and got a hot dog. It was 10am, but Bill Clinton apparently likes the hot dogs from this particular stand and Huffington Post posed the possibility that they are the best in the world.
Seljalandsfoss. Foss means waterfall. You can walk behind this one! Iceland is not a nanny state, as in they don’t like to clutter up the natural landscape with many warning signs and handrails. Guidance is kept to a minimal, because they assume people won’t be dumb. If you see a warning sign, take it serious, cause it’s forrealz.
Gljúfrabúi Waterfall. (Why is there no foss? I hate inconsistencies.) A short walk from Seljalandsfoss and super cool because you hop on stones through a river and into a cave and come out in this cavern with the waterfall. Like a natural cathedral.
South Iceland Guesthouse. A guesthouse is pretty much a bed and breakfast, with private rooms, shared bathrooms, and free breakfast. We went ahead and checked in because it was close by and we were wet and cold from climbing around in waterfall caves. This place is surrounded by nothing but cows and sheep and stunning cliffs and rolling green fields.
Dryholaey. Sweeping views. Ocean. Black sand. Cliffs. I could stay here for hours just staring out into the landscape and reflecting on what an incredible and glorious world we live in. Beautiful meditation session here.
Back to the South Iceland Guesthouse. We tried to pet the cows that wandered around the meadow but they wouldn’t come over. Then we went to dinner at the restaurant across the street (also owned by the guesthouse owners and also the only one in the area) where we ate said cows in burger form. I felt bad about this until I remembered that these are probably the happiest cows in the world and if you can’t acknowledge/accept where your meat comes from then you probably shouldn’t be eating meat at all. The guesthouse was clean and comfortable but spartan.
Day 3: Vik to Hofn
Skogafoss. Maybe not the most spectacular waterfall, but it was my favorite. You hike all the way to the top and are met with miles of incredible views of the countryside and ocean. Plus there are ponies nearby.
Sólheimasandur Airplane Wreck. Worst hike but I would probably say worth it. Maybe not if you really don’t like walking. You walk for two miles down a flat stretch of otherworldly black stones that is the exact same thing for the entire two miles, climb around in a military airplane that wrecked there in the 70s (everyone survived which makes it much less awkward), and then turn around and walk two miles back. It’s a long, flat hike where you can see your car in the distance and it gets slowly closer and slowly drives you crazy.
Vik Black Sand Beach. Not swimmable but very pretty. Black sand is awesome. We got sandwiches from the local grocery store and soup from a little soup shack (so cute that I wanted to hug it) and ate in the car parked in front of the beach because it’s too windy and cold on the beach. Lorenzo tried to get in, but failed.
Skaftafell National Park. Another incredible, “holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-I’m-here” place. I won’t even try to describe seeing a glacier glazed over the mountains and oozing into a lake with chunks of ice floating in it, so just see the pictures.
Guesthouse Skalafell. On a sheep farm and absolutely adorable. Our bedroom was very nice with a big cushy bed. We had our favorite meal in Iceland at the adjoined restaurant. There were only two options - lamb and salmon - and we each got one and shared. Omgggg sooo good. So good. Then we made friends with the owner (Icelandic) and the mother and son staffers (Czech) and drank Woodford Reserve Bourbon (our contribution), Becherovka (Czech contribution), and Ölvisholt Vatnajökull Frozen In Time Beer (Icelandic contribution) till all hours.
Day 4: Hofn back to Reykjavik
A five hour drive with more time added for stops. I felt great waking up after drinking all that Becherovka. No really. My Czechoslovakian heritage knows what’s up.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. It was rainy and misty which added to the mystic of this place. Right across the road is a black sand beach where huge chunks of ice line the shore. I was hit for the thousandth time of the incredibleness of our planet and the divine beauty everywhere.
Reynishverfi Basalt Column Beach. We almost didn’t do this because we hadn’t heard too much about it, but holy shiitteee I am glad we did. Really stunning beach with caves and climbable rocks and black sand and huge crashing waves. Some of the waves are called “sneaker waves” because they sneak up without warning and pull you under. A few tourists in recent years have been pulled off the beach and into the freezing sea by these waves. Iceland requires vigilance. We saw puffins here!
Blue Lagoon. Swanky relaxation - expensive but so luxurious and special. If I was rich I would end every day in Iceland this way. No pictures because we wanted to enjoy the water without our phones. Misty and quiet and sexy and luscious. And warm - finally!
Guesthouse 1x6. Run by a very cool couple from Switzerland and Japan, respectively, who just fell in love with Iceland and bought a house here. They had a garden with a hot tub for guests. I would have liked to hang out here longer.
Day 5: Homeward bound
Breakfast. Lorenzo got another hotdog. At 9am. I got Skyr because I’m obsessed.
Flight home. Except for the one hour holding pattern over New York, really nice flight where we got to watch Beauty and the Beast. I cried then took a nap.
Alcohol. Is very expensive and limited. There are only a few liquor stores in the country and they are usually open for two hours each day. A beer will run you $10-$12 dollars at a bar. Stock up at the duty free store at the airport!
Sun. Does not really set in the summer. Bring sleep masks and melatonin. Close the blinds around 10pm so you don’t get confused.
Weather. We visited in July and the warmest it got was maybe 50 degrees. The wind from the ocean adds an extra chill. We did NOT pack enough warm clothes so ended up wearing the same things most of the trip. It would also rain one minute and be sunny the next and be foggy the next and be cloudy and pleasant the next. Just roll with it and bring dry socks.
Language. Everyone speaks English. And is soooo freaking nice.
Guide Book. I rarely use a guide book when I travel, but we got the Lonely Planet Iceland Guide and I’m glad we did. Mainly for the fun historic and cultural information.
Bottom line: If you like hiking, incredible scenery, cozy quaint places, and a deep sense of peace and connection, go to Iceland. It will remind you of how truly amazing our planet is and how much beauty this world holds.