Why was Iceland my first trip overseas? Truthfully because we found a great deal on airfare, and I refuse to be picky when it comes to experiencing a new adventure. I have my bucket list of course, but if someone were to tell me to pick a random country out of a hat – I wouldn’t fuss.
"I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list."
It also didn’t hurt one bit that it’s one of the most ideal places in the world to witness the Aurora Borealis – which had been number one on my bucket list for years.
Los Angeles International —> Boston Logan International —> Keflavík International
United Airlines (LAX to BOS) • WOW Air (BOS to KEF)
Sixt Rent A Car.
Warning: They will charge you an additional full day for your rental if you show up two hours early… we found out the hard way.
Just a small backpack!
WOW Air charges for everything except one small carry on that does not exceed 17x13x10 inches and that does not weigh more than 22 pounds. Like many passengers, I wore my heavy jacket and boots when boarding the plane, and took them off once I got on. Besides a heavy jacket and boots, I packed thermal underwear, wool socks, shell pants, a beanie, and my camera.
Some of my essential gear for the trip (URLs attached):
Flyweight Backpack – This thing seriously weighs nothing. It helped keep my total carry on weight under 22 lbs.
Nuptse Purna Winter Boots – The perfect boots for Iceland’s weather conditions.
Women’s Arctic Parka – Good for the cold AND wind. The length played a huge role in helping me keep warm… and it has a really cute cinched waist on it, which is a plus!
From a cozy apartment in Reykjavik, to a quiet little farmhouse in Selfoss (I highly recommend staying on a farm!) These places were as low as $52 USD a night, and you really get to learn about Icelandic culture through the hosts – the trip definitely wouldn’t have been the same in hotels.
Unfortunately, Iceland’s food was pretty pricy, and not exactly a culinary destination.
Out of everything I tried, Dons fried mini-donuts were my favorite. They operate out of a truck set up in downtown Reykjavík – DO NOT pass them up if you see them! Traditional Icelandic Skyr yogurt also gets an honorable mention – delicious and unique!
And of course I have to mention Icelandic Hotdogs! I’ve been a vegetarian for the last six years, but Patrick consumed about 12 of those things during the trip. According to him, crunchy onions are mandatory!
Hands down my favorite part of the trip! I had wanted to see the Northern Lights since I knew they existed. I was lucky enough to get my first glimpse of them before we even arrived in Iceland on the plane ride from Boston to Keflavík (I actually cried – it was such a surreal experience!)
How to see the northern lights in Iceland (without a guide):
- These pictures were taken around 2am. You have to be patient when hunting down the lights. The best viewing time is from 8pm-3am.
- Get as far away from the city as you can, (not hard to do) you cannot see the Northern Lights if there is light pollution.
- It’s best to look for them on a clear night – obviously clouds will hinder your chances of seeing them. Iceland’s weather is unpredictable, so don’t be discouraged. Out of the 7 nights spent there, the sky was only clear for two of those nights.
- The colder it is, the more likely you will be able to see them. This is also when they are the most vibrant! September – March are said to be the best times to see them. (I visited at the end of March.)
- I encourage you to look for them without a tour guide. It’s a very emotional experience, better to be spent without a ton of random tourists around you.
_________________________________________________ Iceland’s Capital
(View from the Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran Church Tower – 244 feet)
Entry into the tower was 1000 ISK (1 USD is roughly 100.50 ISK). It gives an amazing 360 view of the colorful city.
Harpa Concert Hall
The Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre is located in the heart of Reykjavík. Even if you don’t plan on attending an event here, it’s definitely worth exploring due to the incredible architecture of the building itself.
You can check out upcoming events at the Harpa’s website here.
- The Golden Circle is a dreamy 186 mile long scenic route looping from Reykjavík into Southern parts of Iceland and back.
- Plan on putting aside at least one full day for this adventure.
- The earlier you go, the less touristy the stops will be.
- Again, I would not recommend going through a tour guide service. This way you’re free to go at your own pace, avoid the crowds, and explore much more.
- My favorites of the Golden Circle were Gullfoss (waterfall), Geysir (geyser), and Þingvellir National Park.
Þingvellir National Park
Black Sand Beach
This is a must see in Iceland! The sand, which gets its black color from volcanic ash, is absolutely fascinating. I have never seen such massive, violent waves – and the imposing basalt columns rising from the sea are very surreal. This is truly one apocalyptic looking beach!
It is about a two and a half hour drive from Reykjaviík – totally worth it!
(Another beautiful building around Vík)
- You can actually hike on this glacier!
- I wouldn’t recommend trying this without going through a tour guide (nor do I think its even allowed) – hiking a glacier is extremely dangerous if you are not experienced.
- I went through Extreme Iceland Tours.
- They provide crampons, ice axes, and a helmet – all you need is appropriate clothing.
- Cost was 9500 ISK (about $100.)
Must see waterfall in Iceland! Only about an hour and a half drive from Reykjavík. There is a trail that takes you behind the waterfall if you want to get closer to it.
This waterfall truly took my breath away! It is only an 8 minute walk from Seljalandsfoss, and much less crowded. You can climb to the top to look over the waterfall, or you can walk right underneath it.
If you have Googled Iceland even once, you have no doubt seen the Blue Lagoon (which tends to be on everyone’s Iceland itinerary), but I wanted to also shine some light on this lagoon as it is much more affordable, and considerably less crowded.
Don’t get me wrong – The Blue Lagoon is definitely worth visiting! But this lagoon deserves a chance as well.
- Secret Lagoon Cost: 2800 ISK per adult
- Blue Lagoon Cost: Starts at 8100 ISK – BOOK IN ADVANCE, they do sell out!
This sparsely populated island is it’s own world – pure and wild. Mystical waterfalls around every turn, glaciers, beaches, lagoons, and the Northern Lights; I really cannot over emphasis how unique and breathtaking Iceland is. With two companies constantly offering cheap airfare, or often offered as an extended layover heading somewhere else, I really recommend working in a visit as soon as you can.
If you have any specific questions about my Iceland trip, feel free to ask!
Skál!This entry was posted in Travel
- Aurora Borealis
- Black Sand Beach
- Blue Lagoon
- Harpa Concert Hall
- Northern Lights
- Secret Lagoon
- The Golden Circle