Making a trip up to Iceland had always been something that we talked about doing someday but it had never really been in the foreseeable future as there were many other destinations we had put before it. Seeing the Northern Lights has always been a bucket list item for us but there are many places in the northern hemisphere that you have the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful spectacle.
We had just returned from back to back trips in Lake Tahoe/Northern California and New York and really had not thought about our next adventure yet…. Then, just like that, a simple text from a couple of friends during dinner one night and we are back into planning mode. Three weeks later, we are on a plane headed to what we will come to find out, one of the most breathtaking places we have ever seen.
We were on a bit of a time constraint with the amount of work we had going on but knowing us, we figured we could do some serious damage in a short amount of time. We just hoped that our friends could keep up and put up with our shenanigans. Below is a list of all of the favorite things we did and absolute must see’s. Please feel free to comment on anything below and we would love to hear any of your epic stories you may have had while there. We will most certainly be back and would love recommendations!
First things first…. It is an absolute MUST that you rent your own vehicle to get around. There are many tourism companies that offer day trips from Reykjavik but most of the best spots are 2 hours or more outside of the city and you will spend most of your time on the road and at crowded tourist spots. We suggest a 4x4 that will navigate well off road. We went big and rented a Land Rover Defender as it seemed pretty proper given the scenery and terrain. It was not the most comfortable ride but worth every penny.
Another thing…. Do not limit yourself to staying in one location. Mix it up. There are some really great Airbnb’s and hotels in the Golden Circle (Southwestern part of Iceland) so just figure out your can’t miss stops and plan to stay around those. The best places we stayed were in the middle of nowhere!
Places To Stay
We are firm believers that your accommodations are one of the main factors in how you experience the destination you are in. If you pick a place that is in a bad part of town or dirty or the staff is not as welcoming as you would hope for, this can make or break your trip. We like to mix it up and stay at both boutique hotels and Airbnb’s whenever possible. This gives us both the possibility to be pampered and live like locals all on the same trip. Iceland was perfect for this set up. We split our time between the ION Adventure Hotel and the perfect Airbnb outside of Reykholt with a hot tub and epic views of the Northern Lights. If you are planning a trip, please reach out to us so that we can pass along all of the details!
Tip: I would pick a hotel or Airbnb with a hot tub! :) Nothing like sitting in it at night watching the Northern Lights!
The Blue Lagoon
Anyone who has been on instagram recently has more than likely come across pics of this beautiful oasis. All of the touched up, photoshopped pics are true - This place is exactly what you think it would be and more. Its thermally heated milky blue water, swim up bars, spa service, and restaurant are on point. This is an absolute must do either as soon as you land or right before you leave as it is only 15 min from the airport. Tips: Make an appointment to visit before traveling, https://www.bluelagoon.com/ and try to go early morning or evening to avoid the crowds. The shot below was when it first opened. :)
We did not spend a whole lot of time in the capital city of Reykjavic as we were looking to venture further south but it is recommended that you at least make time for strolling around the central area by the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral. Amazing little shops/bars/restaurants that are easily walkable. The one restaurant that we did make it to was a grass roof covered building called Roc… it did not disappoint. Great spot for a cocktail!
Also known as the “black sand beach”, this is unlike any beach we have ever seen and definitely fits the unique beauty of the country. This is a must to come and take in the stunning views or the massive basalt stacks and panoramic ocean views. Beautiful spot for some great pics.
There were literally waterfalls spitting out of every mountain we passed. Probably one of the most breathtaking parts of the trip. Here are some of our favorites!
This one was an amazing valley. The water was crystal clear and so blue!
There is a path to walk underneath this one. Be prepared to get wet!! Raincoat and rainboots needed but it’s so worth it!
We saw this one from the air.. AMAZING!!!!
This one is next next to Seljalandsfoss. It is a little hidden, you have to walk on some wobbly stones in a creek thur a small crack in the rock, but the room that opens behind the trail is amazing!! Feels like a cave with a massive waterfall!
My favorite! Is was so massive, the pictures do it no justice! Standing on the edge of this one makes you feel like an ant in a very large and magical world!
Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool
Found this little gem after reaching out to some local bloggers. It’s a bit of a hike to get here but the hike alone is pretty breathtaking. The pool sits in the middle of a lush green and black canyon….
Tip: There are two pools here. The first pool is where you will park your car. The second one is the original, built in 1928! There is a trail to it towards the valley. Seems like you might be going the wrong way but trust me it’s worth it. There is a small changing room there as well. NOTHING FANCY but the pictures in this valley are amazing! Oh and it’s geothermal heated…no way am I getting into cold water in Iceland!
If you are able, a helicopter tour is an absolute must! Norourflug offers a few different tour options, we went with the Fire and Ice tour. The chopper fit 6 of us, landed on top of Porisjokull glacier and the Hengill Geothermal Area. Epic sweeping views of southern Iceland and absolutely worth every minute!
We fell in love with Iceland and are telling everyone we know to make sure it is on their bucket list. We would love to hear your feedback and comments on any places we need to see when we get back there. We only had time to scratch the surface!