For about 3 years now one of my traditions is to spend my birthday in a different city, and where possible, a different country. So far I’ve done Mexico, Chicago, and last year I visited Iceland. I know what you are thinking… Iceland? Err.. why? Do you know anyone there? Isn’t it cold? who lives there?
For some reason I had never even considered Iceland a country I wanted to visit because those exact questions and more crossed my mind, but sometime in 2014, I stumbled across a couple of blog posts by Nomadic Matt: SEVEN THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND (WHY YOU SHOULD GO RIGHT NOW!), and 30 FANTASTIC PHOTOS FROM ICELAND TO INSPIRE YOUR NEXT TRIP and that was the beginning of my fascination with Iceland. I could not get over how beautiful everywhere was, I had to see it for myself. Fast forward Christmas of 2014, and WOW airlines started operating flights out of the US to Reykjavik. I bought round trip tickets for a week in Iceland (flying out of Boston), for about $300. I bought a Southwest flight to Boston using my credit card points and so my adventure began.
I booked my stay at a hostel called Hlemmur Square (This was my first stay at a hostel, and I had a good experience). It was about a 15 minute walk to the city centre,it was clean, had a bar and happy hour in the evening, and the staff were nice and very helpful.
Iceland is expensive but I was able to save money by: drinking tap water (everyone recommends this, cooking a few meals (the hostel had kitchen on every floor so except for a few night where I splurged, eg birthday dinner), eating street food (hotdogs, sandwiches, soup wagon), and walking everywhere. I was there in the “Summer” and the sun did not set the entire time I was there. The first couple of days were gloomy/ rainy but the last were sunny although still cold. One day in particular I walked up to the coast just to watch the sun, because it was about midnight and the sun was just kinda chilling there, and pretending to set. That was one of the highlights of my trip, I just remember sitting there watching the sun and feeling so content and grateful. The beauty I saw is one of the reasons I want to travel the world.The people were very friendly, I remember chatting for about an hour chatting with a man and his family. They were out there enjoying the midnight sun, and spent some time explaining to me the Icelandic culture, and way of life.
Unfortunately since I was there in the summer, I couldn’t see the northern lights, but that just means yet another trip to Iceland. I also wanted to go snorkeling in Silfra (where the tectonic plates of Europe and America meet), but since I’m not a good swimmer, and I wasn’t sure if life jackets would be provided so as cool as it sounds and looked (one of the girls in my hostel did the tour and showed me pictures.. I was super jealous) I decided this was one adventure that could wait.
Since I was there for a short period of time, I opted to just do a few of the pre-packaged tours with Reykjavik Excursions since that allowed me see more in one day than I could have done on my own. I ended up:
- Snaefellsnes National Park( Reykjavik Excursions)
- næfellsjökull glacier,
- White and black sandy beaches,
- bird cliffs and spectacular mountain views
- incredibly rich trout lakes and salmon rivers,
- lush valleys, and unique harbors in charming fishing villages.
- Descended into Thrihnukagigur volcano. Yes thats right.. We descended about 400 ft. into a volcano that last erupted about 4,000 years ago. The colors were out of this world; being inside the earth was a feeling I could not describe. At some point the tour guide had us close our eyes, turn off all our flash lights.. and then open them. It was pitch black. You couldn’t see anything, not your nose or your hands outstretched in front of you. We stood there in awe and silence, and simply enjoyed the darkness.
- Blue Lagoon (Solo trip)
- Evening Icelandic Horse Riding Tour (http://islenskihesturinn.is) on an Icelandic horse.
- South Shore Adventure ( Reykjavik Excursions)
- Seljalandsfoss waterfall- You can walk behind the waterfall
- Black sand beach
- Various rock formations
- Skógafoss waterfall, with its impressive 60 m drop (196 ft). We visit Skógar Folk Museum and get a taste how Icelanders lived in past centuries.
- Hike to a glacier.
- The Library
- Visited Whales of Iceland, where they have life size replicas of whales. Pictures were not allowed off course.
- Ate a lot of Skyr (Icelandic- Yogurt- I don’t know what about this was so good, but I ate about every flavor I could find)
- Walked around the city a lot, and took lots of pictures
- Harpa Opera House (the glass building)
- Ate a ton of ice cream at odd hours of the day and night.
- Experienced the midnight sun
- Reykjavik night life. The party didn’t start till about midnight, and went on till about 6/7am.I left bars/ clubs most nights, and the sun was as bright as when I went in. Win!!!!
- I had sushi one night that included whale, Puffin, and reindeer (they were all soo good).
- Went to a restaurant for late lunch one day and I was the only customer in the restaurant. The chef agreed to serve me their ‘special 7 course sampler’ even though it was specifically for 2 people. I ate reindeer, puffin, whale, and an assortment of too many other items. I left stuffed.
Enjoy the picture overload…
I have a lot of video footage from my trip, so I will try to edit them all into once video, so you all can see God just showing off in Iceland.
I cannot wait to go back to Iceland
* EXCEPT FOR THE HORSE RIDING PICTURES, ALL IMAGES ARE MINE*