Welcome to day 3 of #12DaysOfKimber!
I am finally sitting down to write about my trip to Iceland! My friend and I went about a month ago, and it was so much fun. It was very eye-opening to see nature in its rawest form, and I would love to visit again. This trip was actually a “flex trip” for me because I am currently on a traveling project at the consulting firm I work at (click here to read more about what I do for work).
I flew from the Dulles Airport in Washington DC via Iceland Air stopover, which includes one check-in luggage, one carry-on, and one personal item. The stopover option really is convenient and saves you a lot of money as well, so the flight I booked included DC to Iceland, Iceland to Copenhagen, and Copenhagen to DC. You can choose the number of days you want to stop in Iceland, and you can either stop there on the way to your destination (Copenhagen, in this case), or on the way back home. I chose three days on the way to Copenhagen. Wow Air also has a lot of cheap stopover flights, but you have to pay for luggage fees separately, as it only allows you to bring one personal item. Now onto the trip!
I arrived at the Iceland airport early in the morning and took a bus to the hotel, which was located in Downtown Reykjavik, capital of Iceland. If you are not renting a car, taking a bus is the cheapest option, as taxis are crazy expensive and there are no Ubers. I booked mine via Flybus.
My friend was flying in from Copenhagen, so he wasn’t going to arrive until the afternoon. I had some work to finish up anyways, so I got some coffee and opened up my laptop – super fun way to start a trip, right? After I got some work done, I wandered around the downtown area while I waited for my friend to arrive. That night we ended up getting Chinese food with his friends who somehow knew the owner of that restaurant. You must be thinking – Chinese food in Iceland?! It was actually pretty authentic, and the lamb soup was delicious. I was not as jetlagged as I thought I would be (there is a four hour time difference), so my friend and I caught up after almost one year of not seeing each other. Not the most eventful first day, but that’s that.
We woke up bright and early to get breakfast at the hotel and start our tour. We booked a tour through Tour Radar, which included two nights of hotel and one full day of sightseeing (about $500 per person, and then we booked one extra night at the hotel). The instructions they gave us was that a bus was going to pick us up anytime between 8:30am and 9:00am. This is because the bus goes to all the hotels to pick people up during that half hour. The tour for the day is called the Golden Circle tour, which is one of the most popular ones. The eight-hour tour takes you to Faxi Waterfall, Geysir Hot Spring area, Gullfoss Waterfall, the rift between the Eurasian and American continents, and Þingvellir National Park (in that order, also the order the photos are in). The tour guide was super nice and she was amazing at explaining the lava fields, hot springs, history of Iceland, the Vikings, and much more. She was also very good on time, didn’t rush through anything, and gave us plenty of time to take photos at each stop.
I wore Uniqlo heattech leggings and Uniqlo heattech shirt underneath all my layers to keep me warm. I also wore my Uniqlo heattech vest in burgundy. They really do work and I recommend bringing some of their heattech clothes on any trip where it will be cold! The rest of the outfit is pretty simple – Uniqlo black cashmere turtleneck, Urban Outfitters sherpa coat, Nordstrom blanket scarf (sold out, linked tan version), and Superga white sneakers. I also brought my white pom pom beanie to keep my head warm, and it adds so much cuteness to any outfit! Onto the tour 🙂
The waterfalls were simply magnificent to see, and I was able to get pretty close to them. Contrary to what most people think, I love being in nature, and it felt so refreshing to be out in the open with no cellphone service. It was also refreshing because of the fresh air, of course.
By the time we got to the geysirs, it was lunchtime. The food there really was not that great, but we weren’t there for the food, we were there for the geysirs. I actually saw the geysirs burst many times. The tour guide told everyone to stand against the wind so the hot water from the geysir wouldn’t splash all over them, but some people just did not want to listen. The water is HOT!!
Next was the drive through the rift between the Eurasian and American continents, and then Þingvellir National Park. Parts of Game of Thrones was shot here (I would be a lot more excited if I was into the show). This was also where all major events in the history of Iceland took place, as the translation is literally “Parliament Plains”. I ran (read: fast-walked) around the fields and felt so free. This was the last stop of the Golden Circle tour.
It was around dinner time when we got back to the hotel, so my friend and I went to Café Loki, which is known for its authentic Icelandic lamb meat soup. Icelandic food also includes open-face sandwiches and fermented shark. It was nice to try all of those things, but I really didn’t like it that much. Plus, it was expensive! Expect to pay at least 1.5 times the price of what you would pay in New York City – tldr, food in Iceland is expensive.
Finally, it was time for the Northern Lights! Because it rained the day before, the forecast for Northern Lights was pretty low, but we got lucky and were still able to see some. The lights were not dancing like what you see on National Geographic, but I was able to see the Milky Way with my bare eyes! There was a photographer who came on the tour with us, and she had an amazing camera. She mentioned that she does not go on all the tours though, which is why it is not advertised on the tour website. In order to take photos of the Northern Lights, you have to set your camera to long exposure, so the photographer told everyone to hold their phones out to spell out “ICELAND 2017” with lit up phones – it turned out pretty good! The tour guide offered everyone donuts and hot chocolate while we were out in the cold. Overall, the tour experience was 10 out of 10!
My friend and I woke up super early to go to the Blue Lagoon. We purchased the comfort package, which was almost $100. It does not include the bus ticket though, so you have to purchase that separately. A lot of flights arrive in Iceland in the mornings, so it is smart to go straight to Blue Lagoon from the airport, and then to your hotel. We probably could have optimized our costs so that we weren’t paying for the back and forth buses between Blue Lagoon, the hotel, and the airport, but since we arrived at different times, it was difficult to coordinate. Lesson learned!
Checking in to get our wristbands was very smooth, and we went our separate ways to change into our swimsuits. You/re supposed to rinse your entire body and condition your hair before going in. I rinsed my body and hair but didn’t feel like conditioning my hair – do not do that, my hair was so hard and rough afterward and took a lot of conditioning afterward to get it back to normal.
I brought my GoPro Hero 4 with me, and my friend brought his phone. I recommend bringing a waterproof phone case to keep your phone safe. It was super fun and relaxing. You get one drink ticket with your wristband, and you can always order more by scanning your wristband, kind of like the ones you get at Disney World. I had a slushie because what’s more bizarre thank drinking a cold drink in a huge hot tub at a super cold country?
After about two and a half hours, we went to rinse off and get lunch. We ate at the LAVA Restaurant and it ended up being almost $100 per person! I have to say, the food was very delicious, the fish was very fresh, and the dessert was divine. However, it was definitely a one-time thing. No regrets, but probably won’t do it again.
After our late lunch, we explored the lava fields near the Blue Lagoon and took the bus back to downtown to explore the city. To be honest, I would have been fine if we did not see the “must-see” buildings and sculptures that people talked about online, but if you have time, doesn’t hurt to see them. I definitely recommend allocating your time to the nature-y things in Iceland! We got dinner with my friend’s friends and called an early night because we had early flights to Copenhagen the next day. I will be posting about that part of the trip soon!
There are two major takeaways. The first is that food in Iceland is expensive and does not taste that great, so bring snacks or ramen. The second is that I had an amazing time there and the entire country is so beautiful! Next time I visit Europe, I hope to do another stopover in Iceland to explore the southern parts, and maybe I’ll be able to see the Northern Lights dance! I hope you enjoyed my Iceland Travel Diary. If you like my travel posts, click here for more.
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Thank you so much for stopping by 🙂