Iceland Diaries

thumbnail_IMG_9239.jpg

Wow! That is how I would describe Iceland in one word, wow! Stunning beauty everywhere! I cannot believe that I live just over 5 hours from this wonderful place and this is the first time that I visited Iceland. I highly recommend going to Iceland in the summer or end of the summer time (we were there in the middle of September) as the weather is quite nice compared to the (has to be unbearably cold) winter! One thing to note is that Iceland is VERY expensive! This is even compared to NYC, which is certainly not cheap. You will notice this the most with food and drinks anywhere you go. Expect to pay 2-3x what you would normally pay in the States. Examples are $30 for a Lamb stew in a diner like restaurant. Of course, this stew was delicious so that took a lot of the sting out.

For our seven night tour of Iceland, we started off in Reykjavik, the country’s capital and largest city. It is about a 40 minute drive from Keflavík International Airport. In Iceland, having a rental car is essential as many of the sites to see are quite a distance apart. In the warmer months, driving around Iceland is very easy and quite enjoyable. Iceland made for some of the prettiest drives we have ever had.  Words really cannot fully describe how amazing Iceland’s landscape is.

Our first night was at the Canopy by Hilton in Reykjavik and it is a very nice option if staying in the city. The hotels full buffet breakfast in the morning was really nice.  If within your budget, this is the place to stay! After breakfast, we began our journey east and our first stop was at Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Pictures don’t really do this waterfall justice. An amazing waterfall to view in person and it is very cool that you can walk behind the waterfall for a very different vantage point. Be prepared though, going behind the waterfall will get you very wet from all of the mist! Just wear a poncho and you will be fine. After Seljalandsfoss, we then viewed another major Iceland waterfall called Skógafoss. This was a wonderful waterfall to view too and it is just a quick pit stop off of the main highway while traveling eastward.

From there we drove to the town of Vik, where we stayed the night at the Black Beach Suites. The accommodations here was perfect for us. Essentially an AirBnB type stay (was a studio with kitchen, though we didn’t use the kitchen) and the views of the Black Beach is what makes this place special. While in Vik, we viewed the black sand beaches at the Black Beach. If you are a fan of Game of Thrones (who isn’t!?) then you will love this beach, which was used for some GOT scenes. Even if you are not a fan of the show, the beach is a must see. It is one of the truly special places that we have seen, magical really!

The next day we drove about two hours east to just outside Skaftafell, which is part of Vatnajökull National Park. There we had the highlight of our trip, a Glacier walk at Skaftafell. Even for the non-adventurous types, a visit to Iceland would not be complete without doing a glacier walk. It is much easier than it seems and the guides take good care of everyone throughout the walk. Doing the glacier is truly a once in a lifetime experience! Absolutely gorgeous and surreal! While on the walk be sure to drink the natural glacier water right from the source! Possibly the best water you will ever drink! We also were very fortunate to have done the walk in the afternoon and on the walk back we had the most amazing sunset! Due to the summers there being light most of the time, our guide said it was the first sunset that they had in three months. Lucky us!

The next day we then drove to the Glacier Lagoon that was beyond surreal! One of the most beautiful places that I have ever been. Again, pictures don’t really do it justice! If a picture is worth a 1000 words, you need at least 2000 words to try to do the Glacier Lagoon justice. Another magical place in Iceland!

Our next stop was to Gullfoss waterfall and to the Strokkur Geysir. Gullfoss waterfall is a huge and majestic waterfall! The Strokkur Geysir is a cool stop and something you certainly don’t see everyday.

We then drove back to Reykjavik, where we would spend our remaining three nights. While there we were able to eat at some fantastic restaurants!

We highly recommend eating at Grillmarkadurinn (my husband said it was one of his all-time favorite steaks and my fish was beyond good!), Kopar for some fantastic seafood and Icelandic dishes (the Rock Crab soup is a delight and they also have great cocktails!), and Matur og Drykkur for some truly authentic Icelandic dishes (the special there is the Cod’s Head. For the adventurous eater, this is an amazing restaurant! We loved it and they also had some of the best cocktails in Iceland!).

Oh yeah, and there was the NORTHERN LIGHTS too! I mean, come on! We got lucky when we read that the sky just might be clear enough with the right conditions on our second to last night in Iceland. We headed out to a nice viewing area at the Grótta Island Lighthouse. We ended up staying in the parking lot as it was really cold that night (this is why I cannot imagine being there for the winter!). With lots of patience and hand warming, we were able to get some amazing shots! Yay! :)

On our last full day in Iceland, we were invited to spend the day at the famous Blue Lagoon! The geothermal pools made for a great way to relax and was a great experience. We had heard that it can be touristy but it was not at all while were there. Definitely a good experience. Just be careful not to let the water touch your hair. We were warned ahead of time so we were careful. If the water does get in your hair, it becomes like sandpaper and takes a lot washing and conditioning to get out. I would definitely recommend going to the Blue Lagoon towards the end of your trip in case your hair ends up less than perfect for a few days after swimming in the lagoon. Just fyi! 

Overall, we loved, loved Iceland! We plan on returning someday and hopefully that someday will be sooner rather than later!

thumbnail_IMG_9120.jpg

Above and below: One must stop along the way to say hi to these beautiful horses. The horses in Iceland look like large ponies! So cute!

thumbnail_IMG_9004.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_8997.jpg

Above: Skógafoss waterfall.

Below and the side: Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

thumbnail_IMG_9035.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_9033.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_0046.jpg

Above: Random beauty along the drive.

thumbnail_IMG_0051.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_8998.jpg

Above and Below: Just a short hike to view some of Iceland's glaciers.

thumbnail_IMG_9028.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_0043.jpg

Above and Below: The Glacier Lagoon is about a 5 hour drive from Reykjavik and it is a MUST SEE! One of the prettiest things that I have ever seen. 

thumbnail_IMG_9088.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_0044.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_0059.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_9093.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_0057.jpg

Above: Diamond beach, just opposite the Glacier Lagoon is this surreal black sand beach with glacier chucks setting the scene.

thumbnail_IMG_0050.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_9072.jpg

Above and Below: Skaftafell glacier walk. Once in a lifetime experience! The highlight of our trip.

thumbnail_IMG_9060.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_0055.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_0056.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_9049.jpg

Above and Below: On the walk back from the glacier hike, we were blessed with an AMAZING sunset! Was truly spectacular! The guides said that due to the summer always been bright, this was the first sunset that they had in three months!

thumbnail_IMG_9139.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_9137.jpg

Above and Below: The Black Sand Beach at Vik. Game of Thrones scenes have been filmed here and you will feel like you are in GoT when you visit here. Feels magical! Truly a special place.

thumbnail_IMG_9092.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_0058.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_0049.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_0052.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_0053.jpg

Above: Strokkur Geysir

Below: Gullfoss waterfall

thumbnail_IMG_9147.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_9180.jpg

Above: Reykjavik

Below: Reykjavik Roasters, our daily coffee stop. Great coffee!

thumbnail_IMG_0047.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_9160.jpg

Above and Below: Kopar for some fantastic seafood and Icelandic dishes (the Rock Crab soup is a delight and they also have great cocktails!). We received a special treat of a double rainbow during our meal! :)

thumbnail_IMG_0048.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_9190.jpg

Above: We highly recommend eating at Grillmarkadurinn (my husband said it was one of his all-time favorite steaks and my fish was beyond good!).

thumbnail_IMG_9210.jpg

Above and Below: The famous Blue Lagoon! Another must!

thumbnail_IMG_9211.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_9208.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_9236.jpg

Above and Below: Matur og Drykkur for some truly authentic Icelandic dishes (the special there is the Cod’s Head. For the adventurous eater, this is an amazing restaurant! We loved it and they also had some of the best cocktails in Iceland!).

thumbnail_IMG_9229.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_0065.jpg

Oh yeah, and there was the NORTHERN LIGHTS too! I mean, come on! We got lucky when we read that the sky just might be clear enough with the right conditions on our second to last night in Iceland. We headed out to a nice viewing area at the Grótta Island Lighthouse. We ended up staying in the parking lot as it was really cold that night (this is why I cannot imagine being there for the winter!). With lots of patience and hand warming, we were able to get these amazing shots! Yay! :)

thumbnail_IMG_0064.jpg
thumbnail_IMG_9899.jpg

Bye Iceland! See you again soon!

Shop my Iceland looks below: