Ocean, snow, ice, waterfalls and anything else that has to do with water energizes my soul and helps in achieving inner peace. Iceland is like a bundle for me with all the things I love. Witnessing the Northern Lights was on my to-do list and what better place I can pick than Iceland which has gorgeous waterfalls. I wanted to add a bit of adventure to it by taking a road trip on Highway 1.
Someone said every turn you make in Iceland reveals new wallpaper and it is 100% true. As I post the pictures you will agree with that.
10 Things to do in Iceland:
1. Walking in Main streets of Reykjavik
As I got down in Reykjavik airport bought a round trip shuttle service into town. It is a good 50-minute ride to the town. I booked my hostel online for 4000 ISK per day. I reached hostel around 9 am and they didn’t allow me to check in till 3pm. After requesting for almost 1hr they allowed me to put my bag in front office under one condition that I should come back before 4pm. With my camera and a day pack, I was out on the roads exploring. I met few travelers on road and went to check the hostel it was much better I totally recommend staying there.
Here is the link to bus hostel website: http://www.bushostelreykjavik.com/
They have Bonus stores which locals use for grocery shopping. I got few snacks and fruits to munch on. I realized early on my trip that “Iceland is Expensive” even on a backpacking trip.
2. Driving around Snæfellsnes Peninsula
On day 2 I went around the market area exploring the museums and art galleries. Around 5pm I was out on the road trip with the people I met in the hostel. We had this red corolla with winter tires. You can say that we are crazy but we say that’s the fun part. We reach our hut in Borgarnes around 8pm. On our way we got groceries to make dinner and break fast for next day.
Traveling makes you appreciate every little thing in life.
After dinner, we played cards and talk and talk. When each member of the group is from a different part of the world conversations never end.
Woke up to a surprising view from the hut. I was super excited with the huge mountain and a lake in the back yard of the hut, we didn’t notice last night as we arrived after sunset.
After having amazing breakfast we headed out for a day trip to Snæfellsnes Peninsula. As the sun started showing up the whole area around us brightened up as we drive and it is breathtaking. We stopped at different beaches clicking pictures and enjoying the views of shining mountain tops.
As we click pictures and throw rocks on the frozen lake we noticed a black church on the other side of the road. Yes, you guessed it right I wanted to go check it out.
Once we got to the church we started hearing roaring ocean so here we are running to get to the source of the sound. We ran for almost 2 miles to get to the ocean. Watching the sun over the ocean and it is so close to the horizon at noon was interesting.
We got back to the hut after sunset and eat leftover pasta from last night. Spent the night talking about our personal life and people in general. Next day we will be back on road to get to the northernmost city in Iceland (Akureyri.)
3. Nightlife in Akureyri
Day 4: Drive to Akureyri is beautiful as everywhere else in Iceland. We stopped at so many places to click pictures. At one of those overlooks, our car was sliding off and couldn’t make it out of the parking lot. Me, Eric and Sara stood on the road asking for help, finally, a truck driver stopped and got our car back on road as a toy (of course he is used to driving on these roads.)
It was dark by the time we reached Akureyri. The whole town had this Christmas vibe, lights decoration Christmas songs everywhere. The only thing that’s missing is Santa in his polar express. While in town don’t forget to drink the local beer, it is the best I had till date. On my way back I got a 6 pack to my boyfriend who thinks that is the best gift I gave him 🙂
Day 5: I hitchhiked my way to Godafoss. Stood on the side of a road with a cardboard in my hand. After 15 to 20 mins my angel gave me ride to Godafoss. This beautiful waterfall is just couple of feet away from the highway. I just ran in the snowfields to get to the falls. I am running out of words already to express how beautiful this place is. Parts of the falls are frozen while in some parts water is just rushing down the rocks. It is very dangerous to get close as the entire place is covered in snow. I managed to get some good pictures of the falls. My adventure to get back into town is what added the spice to my trip. Comment below to know how I managed to get a ride back to the hostel from this isolated area.
5. Lake Myvatn
Day 6: If you are a fan of GOT like I am, don’t come back from Iceland without taking a dip in the cave near Lake Myvatn. Yes, this is the same cave where John Snow and Ygritte had intimate time. Most of the beyond the wall scene’s are shot in Iceland.
Here is the link for more information about Myvatn.
I lost my SD card during the trip so I basically lost all the pictures I took in my camera. Pictures in this post are taken on my iPhone 6.
6 Public Swimming Pools
Day 7: I had to split from the group and find my way back to Reykjavik. Public transportation is expensive from Akureyri to the capital. Young women at the hostel front desk assured me to help with transportation. By the time I got back from breakfast, she found me a ride using carshare website locals use. It was cheap and I got to travel in the same car as Þorsteinn frá Hamri (famous Icelandic Writer). People who gave me ride also offered to host me for the rest of my trip. To talk about all the things I learned from them about Icelanders and their culture should be another post. They told me about the public swimming pools.
Relaxing in the heated swimming pools after work and on weekends is part of the Icelander’s culture. For travelers like me, it is a great place to meet locals and interact with them. My host in Reykjavik suggested a pool close to her house, I glad I took her suggestion. After a strenuous hike in glaciers while the outside temperature is below freezing it is a good relaxation to swim in the 80-100 deg water. As there was a storm forecast for next day there were not many people in the pool.
7 Witnessing Natures light show (Aurora Borealis)
Day 8: This is something everyone should experience. Sometimes while flipping through trip pictures I can’t believe that I really watched them dance. Aurora Borealis doesn’t need introduction or explanation, pictures speak for themselves.
The night I saw them intensity was 4 on a 9 point scale and tour guide said it was the best show in the last couple of years. I booked my northern lights hunting tour with Reykjavik excursions they are experts and know good spots outside town with zero lighting.
Here is the link to book tour (appx 65USD) with them: https://www.re.is/day-tours/northern-lights-tour
For this picture, I had to sit on snow for 3 minutes. Even with almost 5 layers on I couldn’t feel my bottom and legs for next 10 minutes.
8 Gullfoss and Geysir geothermal area
Day 9,10: Due to a bad Snowstorm I had to cancel my Day tip to south Iceland and stay indoors. We found a way to entertain by cooking, playing and a Christmas card photo shoot.
Whenever I come across south Iceland pictures in movies or instafeed I feel bad that I missed it. I suggest self-drive but if you need a guided tour then Reykjavik Excursions has a day trip with a reasonable cost (130USD). Here is the link to book South shore tour: https://www.re.is/day-tours/south-shore-adventure
Day 11: This is the worth doing tourist stuff in Iceland. It’s called golden circle tour which covers Gullfoss beautiful and famous waterfalls, Geysir Geothermal area, Stop at a greenhouse cultivation center and the UNESCO site Þingvellir National Park.
A short hike from the parking lot takes you to the stunning 3 step waterfall which is part of the glacial river Hvítá. There is an upper viewpoint to get to the entire view of the falls and a short hike from there will take you the base of the falls in the canyon. Way to the bottom of the falls is slippery and can become dangerous in winter.
The active Geysir shoots up boiling water up to 100 feet every 4 to 5 minutes. It is interesting to watch the boiling water freeze with in no time after coming out of the earth. I read what a Geysir is but when I saw it shoot the first time I got scared and jumped back. After a couple of times, I was comfortable to enjoy its beauty.
9 Þingvellir National Park
This is considered to be Scuba divers paradise and makes it to most of the adventure lovers to do list. Here one can dive between the North American tectonic plate and Eurasian. I was able to take a short hike between the plates above ground. As I mentioned over and over in this post every part of Iceland is a scenic paradise. Drive to Pingvellir from Reykjavik is absolutely stunning. I was confused on which side to look while sitting in the tour bus. All the pictures from this day were in my lost memory chip and my phone was dead. A Chinese couple gave me a portable power bank to charge my phone enough to take a video of the ride to the national park (check my youtube channel for the video.)
10 Blue Lagoon
Day 12: This is my last day in Iceland and I decided to spend it by pampering myself with a unique spa experience. By reading so much about this place and how touristy it is I was not willing to spend $$ and visit this place. I am glad that I changed my mind as it is worth every penny. This place lived up to its name “Blue Lagoon”. Blue Geothermal lake surrounded by mountains covered in snow, will definitely give you once in a lifetime experience. It is a perfect combination of experiencing luxury and nature at the same time.
A mud face pack and few drink tickets are included in the entrance package. I felt so special and deserved swimming in the warm water while the temperature is at below freezing point. This is how I spent my last day in the land of ice and fire, Sipping cocktails by the lakeside bar, pampering with face pack and just breathing in all the beauty that’s surrounding me.
I am totally going back to Iceland pretty soon to find my lost memory card.