ICELAND WAS AMAZING. Should I say it again? Iceland was amazing. Really, honestly, truly one of the best places I have ever been.
I met my best friend/roommate Katie there, and after a security snafu on the tarmac that resulted in the plane being delayed over three(!) hours, I landed in Keflavik at 2:00am (and it was completely light out—so cool/disorienting!). Katie wasn’t due to arrive the next morning until around 7:00am, so I took a shuttle the hour ride into Reykjavik and passed out.
The next morning, after a JOYOUS reunion with Katie (we hadn’t seen each other since I moved to London a few months before), we struck out into the city. We were staying pretty central in Reykjavik, so everything was well within walking distance which is probably the number one thing I look at when choosing a hostel. This one also happened to be a converted cookie factory, which is also a huge plus.
The first day in the city was enough to feel like we had a pretty good grasp of the layout—it was a lot like Guatemala, small enough to feel instantly at home and familiar. I will say Iceland is INSANELY expensive. Like, $20 for bacon and eggs, minimum. So while our hostel and rental car were cheap, the actual day to day costs really balanced it out.
The next day we set off bright and early, and figured out how to take a bus to the tiny airport, where we had a rental car waiting. Isn’t it fun trying other cities’ public transport? I’ve found almost everywhere I’ve been people have been really kind and eager to help (getting off at the wrong bus/train/subway stop is a personal skill of mine).
Then we drove the Golden Circle. This was the best day of our trip by far. Mostly because we planned terribly and packed all our big activities into one 24 hour stretch. But somehow, everything lined up perfectly. The drive was super fun, we listened to so much T-Swift, saw the most gorgeous countryside, and I look back at it and remember feeling so happy, so alive, and so connected to the world.
The first place we went was Kerid, a volcanic crater in southern Iceland. It was, predictably, gorgeous, and the colors were SO vivid.
Then we went to Geysir, which we were lucky enough to see go off about four times, and waterfall Gullfoss, which was huge and beautiful. I know I keep saying everything was gorgeous and beautiful, but LOOK.
Then we headed to Pingvellir national park, where we had signed up to go snorkeling in FREEZING water in between the two tectonic plates of North America and Europe. I’d never been snorkeling or scuba diving or any of that before. Honestly large bodies of water kind of freak me out (pretty unavoidable since I grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and have seen Jaws). But this was SO COOL. The water was runoff from the waterfall we had seen earlier, and it took 40 years to filter through the surrounding rock to make it into where we were. The result was completely clear, filtered water, that revealed incredibly vibrant colors below.
Katie and I swam relatively fast, finishing before anyone else in our group, because we had to start the two hour journey to the Blue Lagoon! The Blue Lagoon is a natural geothermal hot spring, that has been turned into a spa. It’s definitely touristy—it has a bar in the middle of the water(!), and is fairly expensive even for their cheapest package. However we decided it was something we couldn’t miss, and I’m SO glad we went. It was so relaxing, so WARM after our freezing snorkeling adventures, and was something I’d have really regretted not doing.
The next morning we slept in, and explored the city further, and we went to a delicious fish restaurant for dinner—Saegreifinn. We had their (amazing) lobster bisque, some swordfish skewers, and tried whale steak. The whale steak looked like regular steak but tasted incredibly fishy, I really didn’t like it, and couldn’t get over the fact that I was eating whale. The place itself was cool and relaxed; it was really crowded, but it only took a few minutes to find a spot in the family style seating. However we were sat next to two men from Texas who were educating the young Australian girls at our table about the truth about 9/11 and Obama’s Kenyan citizenship. They then went on to say it was nice to talk to Australian women because American women were always so irrational and defensive. (I was more than happy to let these men escape the burden of a conversation with an American woman.)
We spent the day eating the Worlds Best hotdogs and playing our epic, 4 year long game of Golf. Then we capped off our trip to a bar that has some (silly) personal significance. It was such a casual evening, and so light out, that even though we had about four drinks over many ours, we were shocked to discovered that we were 1. kind of drunk and 2. it was nearly midnight and our ride to the airport was coming in just over three hours. I honestly don’t know how people handle 24 hours of sunlight–it was so disorienting!
Bottom line, Iceland was FANTASTIC and I highly recommend everyone try to make the trip. Wow! air has tons of affordable options, if you book far enough out/at the right time of year. I’m already desperate to go back, except maybe next time in the winter to see the Northern Lights!