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Adventures from a Road Trip Around Iceland

In August of 2015, I met my friend and maid of honor Edie, as well as her boyfriend and their friend, over in Iceland for our annual adventure reunion.  It was a perfect halfway meeting point, a cheap flight, and a beautiful setting for our 12th reunion.

Here is a day-by-day account of our trip driving around the country (including 10 tips for traveling Iceland at the end!):

Day 1 (August 3): 

While my travel companions were already settled in Reykjavik, I was dragging my suitcase and backpack between the tourists that packed the Highline Park in New York City. My 45 minute walk dumped me into a mass line with no direction, where I waited for an hour in the blistering heat wearing Icelandic travel gear (sweatpants and hiking boots). When my bus finally arrived, I settled myself in to a nice upper-deck window seat and allowed myself to take a nice nap, ready to arrive in Boston 4 hours later with ample time for my flight. Instead, I awoke 2 hours later to a bus that was crawling down the highway, and my phone said we still had 3 hours left of the trip. Needless to say, a ride that was advertised as '4 comfortable hours with Wi-Fi and plugs' turned into a 5 1/2 hour ride with no Wi-Fi, no working plugs, and at least one majorly stressed-out and helpless passenger (me).
Ps. Woot woot Megabus!!!
I arrived at the bus station in Boston at 6:00 for a 6:50 flight. I hopped in a cab, rushed to the airport, checked my bag as they were closing the check-in counter, and rushed to my gate with 2 minutes to spare.
Well, that was a fun start to the trip.
The next 4 hours were glorious, sleep-filled, and cell phone-charged on my adorable Wow Air flight.

The sun never set during my flight!

Meanwhile, in Reykjavik, the other 3/4 of the travel crew spent the day visiting the Geothermal Beach, the Whale museum, the Perlan, and walking around the town center. They took no pictures (their official trip photographer had not yet arrived), and therefore have no evidence that this day ever existed.

Day 2 (August 4): 

I arrived to Keflavik International airport at 5:00am Iceland time (1am New York time). A Flybus took me right from the airport to the front step of my hostel (Bus Hostel Reykjavik) for 25000isk (about $20), where I met the welcoming face of an Edie who was there to greet me and eat free toast with me even though it was 6am.
We retreated to our room and got 3 final hours of sleep before re-awakening to a sunny and hot Icelandic day.
Our day was spent doing the typical and suggested things in Reykjavik. First, we went in search for a real breakfast, and I was insistent on trying a place called Mokka Koffi that I had read about from Pretty Prudent's blog. Unfortunately, there was not a gaggle of old men to be found outside, but we filled our bellies with delicious waffles and mega-toast and coffee (I had a delicious Mokka Koffi, of course!) and tea and got on our way. 
My delicious first breakfast... in the top left corner you can see the mega-toast!

We happened to catch some locals painting a rainbow road down the middle of town in anticipation for Gay Pride Celebration that weekend.
The road being painted in the morning...

The road completely finished a few hours later.

Next, we wandered down to the Harbor to see the Harpa Concert Hall, a gorgeous building with shining glass panes meant to look like the scales of a fish (though this fact was not fact-checked after hearing). The inside of the building was just as cool, and it is where the GoPro selfie stick made its first appearance, to a chorus of groans and taunting eyes.
The outside of the Harpa Concert Hall


A 10 minute walk from the Opera House brought us to the Sun Voyager Statue, where we had a mini photo-shoot (as well as rock climbing, posing, taking pictures, and counting jellyfish) before making our way back into town and right into the Phallological Museum. If you ever wanted to stand next to the phallus of a whale, here's your chance. 

Sun Voyager Statue

I guess we can't really say we never saw part of a whale...

By this time, it was time for lunch, and we set about looking for the nameless Yellow Pizza house that I had read about from Pretty Prudent (found at Hverfisgata 12). We did pass by it a few times before wandering up some stairs and into a house that only slightly resembles a restaurant. Luckily, we had found the right place, and although we were the only ones in the place (at 3pm), we had a great lunch of amazing pizza and cheesy-garlic-mayo-covered French fries.
Next, we took a walk around the lake and admired the geese (fun fact: geese are afraid of selfie sticks), and finally made our way to the Hallgrimskirkja church (I just called it 'Helluvachurch'). We paid the small fee to take the elevator to the top, and were able to get views of both the traditional colorful roofed-houses, as well as the more modern IKEA-styled high rises that dotted Reykjavik's harbor.
Geese at Lake Tjornin

View of Reykjavik from Hallsgrimskirkja Church

Hallsgrimskirkja Church

Our evening ended with a delicious pasta made in questionable dishes in the hostel kitchen, and went well into the night with card games and mixed drinks.
Spoiler alert: Brennivin tastes exactly how you think it will taste. 

Day 3 (August 5th):

The next day was an exciting one, because we got to pick up the rental car! Our home for the next 8 days was a brownish-purple Skoda station wagon we (fondly?) named Barney Poo. The first thing we did with our car was drive out to the Golden Circle- the ring of sights that are about 50 minutes outside of Reykjavik. We drove into Thingvellir national park, with hopes of finding the tectonic plates (the gap between the two pieces of land that are North America and Europe). We pulled off in a parking spot, walked up about 5 minutes, found a gap in the Earth, and enthusiastically declared that we had found the tectonic plates! We spent about 45 minutes climbing rocks, posing, taking pictures, and stuffing ourselves into little caves before adventuring back to our car. 
Thingvellir National Park
It wasn't until later we realized that those probably weren't actually the tectonic plates and we had to go back... But more on that later.
Next, we visited the geysir, which is a big bubbling pool that exploded every 5 minutes, much to the joy of the onlookers. We watched the geysir go off about 3 times before we decided we got a good enough selfie, and spent the next 45 minutes climbing rocks, posing, taking pictures, and trying not to get blown off a mountainside.
See a pattern yet?

Geysir in Thingvellir Nathional Park

A trail behind the geysir led us to the top of a (very windy) hill with great views!

Finally, we made a much too quick stop at the Gulfoss waterfall, which in the end ended up being one of our favorites!
Gulfoss Waterfall
By this time, we realized we would be over an hour late for our reservation at the Blue Lagoon, and we just couldn't figure out where all the time had gone!!
Luckily, the employees at Blue Lagoon were very nice and didn't mind at all that we were late. We enjoyed the beautiful lagoon and facilities (including the surprisingly effective algae face mask) for the evening, and as we headed out we made sure to take a few minutes climbing rocks, posing, taking pictures, and growing hungrier by the minute.
Algae Masks in the Blue Lagoon

An 11pm Sunset outside Blue Lagoon

On our way back into town, we stopped at the much desired Viking Restaurant, only to find that they had already closed (it wasn't completely unreasonable to expect dinner at midnight on a weeknight, was it?), so we settled with eating Dominoes and hot dogs back at the hostel before crashing in bed.

Day 4 (August 6): 

We got up early, cleared our bunks, and packed the car as we prepared for our first day on the road. We were excited for the 4.5 hour drive to Akureyri!
We decided to have a picnic somewhere along the route, and stopped when we found our first tour bus parked on a pull-off. It ended up being a volcano crater that we walked up and around, before sitting at a resting point and attempting to make sandwiches while the wind blew volcano dust into our food. Yum.
Of course we didn't forget to stop at a few places on the way spend time climbing rocks, posing, taking pictures, and chasing waterfalls. Who's to say that we spent a little too much time doing this, but 11 hours and a scary fog-ridden winding fjord road drive later, we finally made it to our hostel, Akureyri Backpackers
By the way, your GPS may believe that a huge chunk of the highway is missing and will take you on the scenic route across the tops and through the one-lane tunnels of the fjords, and this might just end up being your turn to drive, and it might be the most scarring driving experience of your life. Consider yourself warned.
Our evening ended with a long forage for food around Akureyri, finally settling on sandwiches and pizza at a nearby restaurant.

Day 5 (August 7): 

Our day started even earlier, but when we rose at the crack of dawn (ok, it had been light for hours, but the light's weird there okay?) we greeted throngs of backpackers all ready to get their days started as well. The adventure of the day was White Water Rafting with Viking Rafting. Although the description of 'Adventure Rafting' through glacial waters that were on rapids at a grade of 4+ kiiiind of put the fear of God in me, the trip ended up being amazing! It was a full-day thing, with a briefing, a 45 minute bus ride, a few hours of paddling, and a ride back. Halfway through, we were given delicious waffles and hot chocolate, which made the trip that much better. If you're wondering how they serve 40 tourists food and drink in the middle of a rafting trip, the answer is an awesome pulley system with a wooden box that goes up and down the mountain. I believe little waffle trolls are at the top of the mountain diligently making waffles and stirring pots of hot chocolate, but no one confirmed this for me.
Hiding behind a water drop on the camera as we pose with waffles while rafting.

If you, like me, are afraid of level 4+ rapids, don't be. There was only one really big one, and only one of the people in our boat fell out the whole time (the other boats weren't so lucky).
If you, like me, are afraid of glacier-fed freezing (literally) cold water and getting wet and never feeling dry ever again, don't be. They gave us dry suits and booties and gloves and my clothes never even got wet (Edie and her holey dry suit weren't so lucky) even though I jumped in the water at a few points and floated relaxingly down the river.
If you, like me, are afraid of climbing the edge of a cliff while hovering precariously over forceful rapids and sharp rocks, only to jump off the top of that cliff and attempt to land in a four-square-foot area of safety, then you too can watch from the shore and shake your head as everyone else plummets to their death.
No regrets.
Shockingly, we still had enough energy after our four-hour-long-workout to have dinner and happy hour at the wonderful restaurant below our hostel, only to end the night with a few hearty rounds of cards and an empty bottle of Brennivin, our biggest achievement of the trip.

Day 6 (August 8): 

We awoke to a disappointing breakfast of cereal and toast (that we had paid 1300isk for!), and headed in excitement to the nearby town to Dalvik for their annual fish festival. The festival was completely free, and had so many different samplings of different Icelandic delicacies. I was cautious in my samplings, as I am against putting fermented shark, whale, or puffin anywhere near my mouth, but the things I did try were delicious. I can't tell you what they were, but I took a picture of the sign (and I'm a little hesitant to google it). 
I Spari-Fotunum was delcious, a quick google translate tells me it means: Sparta Clothing

The Icelandic crowds at the Fish Festival

We watched an amazing singing group of about 30 old Icelandic men that I can only assume are the town's fishermen and included the use of spoons for instruments. 
I acted as their groupie and stood right in front cheering.

We also saw a dancing group of old Icelandic people in traditional dress, and (lucky us!) got to walk around and view all the old fish they had caught and put on display, including a sad and melted-looking shark. 
Traditional dancing at the Fish Festival

A melted shark on display at the Fish Festival

After Dalvik, we made our way back past Akureyri to Husavik, where we had a whale watching trip planned. On the way, of course we stopped to do some rock climbing, posing, picture taking, waterfall chasing, and (best of all) pony petting! 

Somewhere along the drive we stopped at Godafoss Waterfall, another one of our favorites since we got to walk right up to the edge.
Godafoss Waterfall

We arrived in Husavik an hour before our departure, so we decided to grab a quick bite to eat in the harbor with a window facing the dock so we would know if our boat was leaving. We told our waiter we were in a hurry, and he graciously served us quickly. At 6:02 we were sat at the dock of the harbor, when one of the smarty pants boys decided that they should check the ticket office. They indeed found that we were in the wrong place the whole time, and we had missed our boat.
They offered the encouraging news that they booked us on the boat 2 hours later which only had 9 people on it!
Soooo... We went back to the restaurant for some cheese and grapes and laughingly told the nice waiter what had happened. While we waited for the boat, there miiiight have been some rock climbing and picture taking...
The Harbor of Husavik

The 3-hour whale watching trip was very exciting as we looked with baited breath for the 'smooth black back' of a whale... For the first two hours. By hour 3 we had seen 3 dolphins and a seal, and made up hundreds of songs about how there were no whales in sight, including:
"We Are Never Ever Ever Gonna See a Whale"
"How Am I Supposed to Breathe With no Whale?"
"Cause Baby Now We Got No Whales, There Used to be Loads Whales"
"Lemme Hear You Say Whale, WHA-LE"
"Look Whale, Look Whale, Don't Look There is No Whale"
... And so on... Much to the pleasure and of the grumpy passengers aboard the ship who didn't know how to find the fun in a situation!
The Whale Watching Trip had a great sunset view!
We left Husavik and spent one more night at our hostel in Akureyri, having seen no whales, but with free tickets for whale watching next time we're in Husavik!

Day 7 (August 9): 

We checked out of our hostel in the morning, had a nice breakfast in the cafe up the road, and got back on the road again, this time to Hofn in the East of Iceland. We had a picnic lunch consisting of soggy convenience store sandwiches while standing next to Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, in the misty rain. This was the reality of a vision of having a picnic next to a waterfall (there was a lot more sunshine and ponies in my vision).
Dettifoss Waterfall - See the tiny people on the other side?

We also walked from Dettifoss a short way to Selfoss, another waterfall. 

Selfoss Waterfall

We also stopped in Myvatn at the Myvatn Nature Baths, for a quick warm dip in eggy-smelling water.
Myvatn Nature Baths - A Geothermal Hot Pool

The drive to Hofn was quick and painless (or maybe it only felt that way because I slept most the time), and we arrived to an adorable guest house (Nyibaer Guesthouse) with linens and towels included, for free! And a wonderful breakfast in the morning, for free! And a cute little lady who ran everything!
After dropping our stuff we quickly headed out on our usual dinner forage, and ended up eating at a little Log Cabin restaurant. I had langoustine on my pizza, which is like the baby of a shrimp and a lobster... And Hofn is known for its lobster!

Day 8 (August 10): 

After our free, delicious, and adorable breakfast in the morning, we were faced with a day with no plans, and had no idea how we were going to fill it. We decided to do two hikes in nearby Vatnajokull National Park, one glacier hike and one waterfall hike. We had another vision of eating our lunch on a glacier halfway through the first hike, so everyone packed up cold pizzas.
On the way to the park, we stopped at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon for a quick peek, but it was so breathtaking we couldn't help but sit there and stare for about 30 minutes. I had a mini panic attack when I saw that there were tons of seals swimming around, too, and this lagoon instantly became my favorite place in the world. Needless to say, there was a lot of rock climbing, posing, picture taking, and squealing.
Never wanting to move from this spot!

A seal pokes his head up between the pieces of ice.

We finally set off for our hike, looking forward to the one hour round trip easy walk. Unfortunately, we hadn't yet identified our pattern of impressive time-wasting, and the next hour consisted of climbing every rock we saw, posing in front of waterfalls, taking pictures, and knocking down cairns (which are illegal in Icelandic national parks says a man walking by us on a mission to destroy the cairns). When we finally got down to the glacier to eat our lunch, we found the the previously hot and tank-top appropriate weather had been overcome by a bone-chilling glacial wind, and we were forced to hide in a rock pile to eat our lunch. Once again, not quite the vision, but close enough. 
Standing in front of the glacier's tip.

The rocks we hid between while we ate our lunch.
After lunch, it was someone's grand idea to make our way over to the glacier and walk on a bit of it, despite the warning signs.
Hey, guys, don't do this. Just, don't. Glaciers are really slippy.
Since our quick hike had already turned into a two-hour ordeal and we were just at the turn-around point, we dragged our tired bodies back to the car on a seemingly endless hike, and decided do forego the second (and longer) waterfall hike due to our inability to simply and responsibly put one foot in front of the other down the trail.
Instead, on the way home, we stopped at another glacial lagoon, which was very pretty, but ultimately seal-less.
The second Glacial Lagoon
We also stopped at the Black Sand Beach that was just across the road from the first glacial lagoon. Lots of pieces of icebergs washed up on the shore, and we enjoyed some rock climbing, posing, picture taking, and Titanic scene re-enactments. 
Black sand and Icebergs

Rock climbing and posing

A trip out to sea on an iceberg

Eventually, our free and unplanned, yet extremely busy and tiring day, came to an end with a delicious dinner in a hotel in Hofn.

Day 9 (August 11):

The following morning, we once again packed up, loaded up, and set off to our next stop. 50 minutes into our trip, we noticed that we had about a quarter-tank of gas left, so we looked up the nearest gas station.
Unfortunately, the nearest gas station ahead of us was so far that we wouldn't make it with the gas we had, so our only option was to turn around and drive 50 minutes back to Hofn to fill up, then drive 50 minutes back the other way.
Once again, we were the masters of time-wasting.
The good part of it was that it meant we ended up stopping for some amazing picturesque pony pictures in front of an abandoned house...
My beautiful model

Tom, the horse whisperer
...and we also got to eat lunch on the rocks of my favorite lagoon, where the seals were more plentiful and closer than the day before. 

Finally, a perfect picnic

Dancing seals

 On our journey, we also stopped at two more waterfalls on the way. Skogafoss was a giant one that you could walk right up to the bottom (or climb to the top) of, permitted you were willing to get a little wet.

Seljelandsfoss was a really cool one because you could actually walk behind it!

Also on our jouney south, somewhere along the long straight road surrounded by only flat lava lands, I was the lucky girl who found the one police officer on the whole ring road, and I also happened to be speeding at the time.
Let's just say.. that speeding ticket was the same price as my plane ticket. Ouch.
So, my word of the wise to fellow travelers... use cruise control. The speed limit on the highway is 90kmph, which is about 55 mph, so if you go a speed that feels normal-highway speed to you (73mph), you will lose all the money. And it will happen on the spot. The nice Icelandic man will take you back to his police car and sit you in the passenger's seat and show you the video of you speeding and show you the chart that shows how you will lose all your money. Then he will make small talk about how New York City is a very big city, while swiping your Visa. Then he will tell you to have a nice day.

So, after the second disaster of the day (the first being the gas failure of the morning), we finally made it to the ferry that would take us to our next stop for the night, Heimaey Island.

Heimaey Island the largest of a group of islands off the south of Iceland called Vestmannaeyjar. There is a quick (40 minute) ferry that will take you there, that isn't that expensive, and you can even bring your car. We chose not to bring our car (there was free parking right outside the ferry where we could leave it), and we didn't need it at all, as everything we needed was within a square mile right off the dock of the ferry.
We arrived to the island being warned that there was a big storm coming, so we needed to be careful of the ferry the next day. We found a wonderful little place to have dinner and wine, then retreated to our adorable Guesthouse Hamar (with a private bathroom and free breakfast!).

Day 10 (August 12):
The following day was our last full day in Iceland, and we woke up to constant drilling right outside our window, as well as steady rain, grey skies, and strong winds. We walked down to the harbor to find that our Ribsafari had been canceled, and we had to pay to change our ferry tickets to an earlier time because of the storm.
The Ribsafari was a boat tour around the island on a little rubber bouncy boat, where we were supposed to see cool things like Elephant Head Rock, puffins, and pods of killer whales (according to their advertising pictures). Unfortunately, when it rains it storms (literally), and our bad luck strike had continued on to the following day.
We stayed positive and made the best of the day by visiting the tiny Saeheimar Aquarium... it was so small it was actually on top of a fire station, but it was cheap, and we had a trip highlight of being able to hold two rescued puffins!!!
The older puffin had been rescued after it was abandoned by its mother, and the puffling (yes, this is the word for a baby puffin) had been rescued during the annual children's Puffin Patrol when some of the children realized it wasn't waterproof and wasn't able to stay afloat in the water. The Puffin Patrol is an absolutely amazing phenomenon that sounds like the cutest thing in the whole wide world... I encourage you to read about it here
An adult puffin named TiTi

A puffling (baby puffin) after its daily bath

After the aquarium, we wandered around in the wind and rain, until we finally holed up in a little coffee and ice cream shop with free wi-fi until our ferry was set to board at 1:30.
The ferry ride back was choppy to say the least, but I was determined to get some pictures of the island since we spent the ride in (in the beautiful sunshine) playing cards inside the ship's cabin.
My misty pictures don't do the island and the waves justice, but about 5 minutes in I spotted a puffin flying alongside the ship, which resulted in me banging wildly on the window of the ferry (much to the frightened looks of fellow travelers) and yelling 'EDIE, PUFFINSSSSSSS!!!!'. We spent the whole trip back outside, being amazed that the ship hadn't sunk yet, and watching the 50 or so puffins that were following alongside our boat.
Leaving Heimaey Island
Watching puffins in the misty storm

We made it back to our car and started our short drive back to Reykjavik... the last leg of our completed circle around the country. Since we now had the better half of a day to fill (thanks to the earlier ferry ride), we decided to go back to Thingvellir park and find the real tectonic plates. 
So, we hiked in the rain, getting soaking wet, and my friends patiently waited while I dragged them to many different spots along the park, searching for the place that looked like this picture I had seen on Pinterest.
I never found that spot (though looking back, it says that it is Slilfra, which we determined was the spot where the divers enter the water to go between the tectonic plates, but wasn't the tectonic plates themselves), but I DEFINITELY walked between the tectonic plates this time.
Walking between two continents

North America is on the right, Europe is on the left. The river runs between them.

This picture doesn't show the depth of the 'crack between the continents'

Our evening ended with a quick (and windy and rainy and view-less) trip to the top of the Perla, and one last attempt at visiting the Viking Restaurant. We stopped for drinks before making our own dinner in the hostel, and we were actually disappointed with the place.

We went back to the hostel, and decided not to spend the 1000isk on bed covers for the one night we were there, and instead spent our last night in Iceland cuddled under damp towels and sweaters.
Edie went with a three-cover approach, including a towel and two hoodies.

Day 11 (August 13):
While the boys rushed off to catch an early flight home, Edie and I spent our last few hours in Reykjavik taking a stroll back through town. 
The most exciting point of our day was when Edie used the public bathroom pod, and two old German ladies who had just been using it stood outside it with us and watched as it disinfected itself, then everyone cheered when it opened again.  I believe we bridged a cultural gap with that celebration.
Finally, we set off on what would be a 16 hour trip home (for me, anyways). We caught the 12pm flybus minibus to the bus station, where we waited for our larger bus to take us to the airport. We arrived at the airport, checked in, had a nice vegetarian pizza while waiting, and said goodbye at the customs gate. I boarded my 3:30pm 6-hour flight, and was thrilled to look out the window a few hours in and see a perfect view of Greenland!!! (Does this mean I can say I've been there, too?)
A glacier in Greenland from the air

Seemingly untouched mountains of Greenland

I arrived in Boston at 5:30pm (9:30pm Iceland time), hopeful that I could still make my 6:30pm bus to New York.
The airport had different plans for me, though, as we sat at the gate for 20 minutes before unloading, then made our way through a 45-minute long customs process. 
By the time I finally caught the silver line train to the South Station train station and walked over to the bus station, it was 7pm and I was optimistic that I could just change to the 7:30pm bus.
I was told that that bus was full and I would have to wait on standby with 7 people ahead to me to see if there were any no-shows.
I spent the next 30 minutes trying to come up with a backup plan, which consisted of taking an 8:30pm Chinatown bus, which definitely would have been an adventure, but thankfully I squeezed on the 7:30 bus and arrived in New York City at midnight, greeted by a loving husband on the side of 7th avenue. One quick taxi ride later... I was HOME (12:30am NYC... 4:30am Iceland. 16.5 hour trip!)

So, the adventure has ended, and the next month will be spent piecing together all our GoPro clips to make a feature film and a variety of short videos to track our journey. I'll be sure to post any online ones here for all the strangers of the world to see!

Videos from Our Iceland Trip:

Waterfalls Music Video

If you're interested in visiting Iceland, I fully recommend it, but do it quickly because of global warming and the glaciers melting and stuff. If you have any questions about our trip or Iceland in general, leave me a comment!

I will leave you with 10 trips for Traveling Iceland (based on our experience)... Happy Travels!

10 Trips for Traveling Iceland

1. Leave Reykjavik - 

and I mean, really leave Reykjavik... Don't just do the Golden Circle (the geysir, Gulfoss, and Thingvellir national park). Rent a car or take a tour bus or bike or hitch hike, but get out of the 'metropolis'! Reykavik is an adorable little town and a nice slice of Icelandic culture, but if you want to really see some breathtaking scenery and experiences, go all the way around the country... I especially recommend Hofn.

2. Bring a towel. 

Although we joked about it and quoted "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" one too many times, the towels we brought from home were used consistently, from drying off after the shower or hot springs to being used as a blanket at night when we were too cheap to rent linens in the hostel. The towels can be used as pillows, umbrellas, picnic blankets, and a life saving device when rescuing each other from quicksand, so suck it up and find room in your luggage for one more item.
Ps. I also brought one of those neck travel pillows, which ended up being a plane pillow, car pillow, extra pillow at night, and cuddle buddy.

3. Travel with friends. 

We decisively concluded that 4 was a perfect number to travel with. The drives were often long, so it helped to share the responsibility with more drivers. We were able to book a whole room at every hostel, so there was no stranger danger while sleeping. Plus, more people meant more voices during sing-alongs, and more unbelieving eyes verifying that the amazing sights you're seeing are actually real life.

4. Try the Hostels. 

One thing I can tell you about Iceland is that I did not see one Marriott anywhere. I think I saw a Day's Inn in downtown Reykjavik, but besides that we were pretty much limited to the hostels and the guest houses around the country. This may scare you (I can imagine my mom's panic attack at the thought of a hostel now), but I'm here to tell you that it's all okay. Every hostel we stayed in was clean and friendly. We never had problems with the people or the staff. We ran into all kinds of guests- young, old, roadtrippers, backpackers, and adventurers. A lot of the places even had families! Yes, it might be a little inconvenient having to wait a few minutes to brush your teeth in the morning, but overall, it adds to the adventure. If you're resistant to hostels, a lot of the towns had cabins to rent, most of them with amazing views, or you could try your hand and camping.

5. Pack everything. 

Oh, your airline limits you to a 44lb checked bag and 7lb carry-on? Time to get creative. When I was packing for Iceland, I googled and googled and wished someone would just give me a completed packing list... Instead, I just found advice that 'Iceland has a temperate climate' and 'the weather changes every 5 minutes'. Let me clear things up...
To preface, we visited all of Iceland between August 3-13... Summertime here. The coldest weather was in the 40's, and the hottest in the 60's. We were so lucky with the weather, and the rainy days happened to fall on our driving days until the very end. My first day here, I was wearing a tank top and jeans and was still hot walking around Reykjavik. One of my friends even wore shorts. On our last full day here, I was had on 4 layers, including my ski coat, as we froze in the rain while hiking Thingvellar park.
These are some things I fully recommend packing:
Hiking boots - thick socks - beanie - scarf - gloves - towel - jeans - long underwear/leggings for under the jeans on a really cold day - short sleeved shirts- fleece/ wool sweater - waterproof windbreaker - waterproof pants - flip flops (for walking around the hostel) - scarf - swim suit (for the hot springs) - nice camera

6. Take pictures. 

Yes, I absolutely love pictures and everything about them - taking them, looking at them, sharing them. I debated which camera to bring for the trip, and almost didn't bring the DSLR because of luggage space. In the end, I brought the nice DSLR and the GoPro with all the accessories (so, half my luggage was camera equipment), but I don't regret this for a second. All my friends were so helpful with taking pictures, and everyone willingly had turns behind and in front of the camera. There were lots of happy pit stops on the side of the road that involved hopping fences just to get pictures of picturesque ponies or mountains, and the GoPro become a necessity for video footage. The GoPro's selfie stick (which was shunned at first) quickly became the first thing anyone would save in a fire, and we also used the car mount to record some drives, the chest strap for whale watching, and a helmet mount and waterproof case for white water rafting. Oh, and my phone might now be filled with Iceland photos too. If there is any place in the world to use your nice cameras, this would be it.

7. Be friendly and make friends. 

Iceland is a small country with one main highway that circles it. There are few main towns, and few places to stay in these towns. This means it is very possible you will see the same people over and over again on your trip. We ran into people on our whale-watching trip the next day on the other side of the country. The guy we ate breakfast with in the hostel kitchen happened to be on my flight later that day. There are so many different nationalities and cultures represented that you never know where someone will be from or what language they speak, so be nice, smile, and say 'hello!'

8. Do the Duty Free.

 I read this tip on another blog, and passed it along to my fellow travelers... If you want alcohol while in Iceland, buy it from the airport duty free upon arrival to save a ton of money. As I waited for my bag to come out of baggage claim, I wandered the aisles, and picked up a bottle of rum, a bottle of wine, and a bottle of Brennevin (an Icelandic spirit also known as 'The Black Death', all for about the price of a round or two of drinks. Apparently it's one of the only countries that has a tax AND duty-free shop, and they claim the prices are half as in town.
Now, whether or not you make your alcohol last past the first night is up to you...

9. Tipping is Optional...

and in our experience, wasn't expected or deserved in many of the places we went to. We were met with pretty bad service and very long meal times at many of the restaurants, with a lot of sitting at the table and waiting to not be ignored. One important thing to know is that most restaurants don't bring you your check... instead you go up to the bar to pay. In the end, we actually liked this way better because it was easier to split the check, but it did take awhile to figure out!
By the way... bonus tip... we didn't need cash anywhere. Everywhere had a card reader, and when we got cash out, we just ended up rushing to spend it so we didn't take it home.

10. Stay Positive.

This might be more of a life tip in general, but it is very important to remember when traveling. Many of our plans on the trip didn't work out (and some were full-on disasters), including but not limited to:
-Missing our whale watching boat
-Not seeing any whales
-Someone attempting to climb a glacier and needing rescuing
-Having to drive back to get gas
-Someone having his towel stolen at a hot bath
-Speeding ticket
-Canceled Ribsafari
-Difficulty finding food for everyone
-Wet days
If we had let any one of these events ruin our day, we would have had 10 ruined days in a row, and a very grumpy trip. Instead, each time we were faced with a new difficulty, we laughed it off, solved the problem, and made it into a song. So... don't worry. Be happy.

1 comment:

  1. Those lagoons 😍😍😍!! Such beautiful views/pictures! It looks like you made a lot of fun memories!