Iceland is the most beautiful place I have ever been to and will ever go to. In September of 2018, I had a jam-packed week of adventures with two incredible friends, Allyson and Wendy. We honestly barely scratched the surface of this gorgeous country, but what we experienced was nothing short of amazing. As only my second international trip, experiencing Iceland meant so much to me, and I can’t wait to go back and bring Tyler and other family members and friends. With that being said, I cannot shower enough praise on Allyson for planning this trip. My only request was seeing the puffins, and she brought us that and so much more.
Now settle in, get ready to scroll, and I hope you enjoy a glimpse at the beauty that is Iceland:
Our first stop after getting off the plane and procuring our rental car was the iconic Blue Lagoon (a note on the rental car situation: having a rental car was essential for us and definitely the right move, but also be aware that the security deposit for these things is quite substantial). We had pre-purchased our Blue Lagoon Premium Package tickets ahead of time, which was so worth it, and enjoyed a wonderful meal in the Cafe before soaking in the hot springs with their signature face masks to unwind and relax. Although it is one of the busiest and most popular attractions in Iceland, it is beyond worth experiencing.
***Side note: You absolutely, 300% need to get a wi-fi hotspot. Ours worked without fail on our entire trip and was easily picked up and dropped off at the airport.
After leaving Blue Lagoon, we checked into our Airbnb. I highly, highly recommend this Airbnb. Beautiful, comfortable, fantastic location, and a great host. After dropping off our stuff, we ran to Bonus to pick up some groceries (if you do one thing while visiting Iceland, make sure to stock up at the grocery store and bring your own lunch and snacks with you. Between our sandwiches and the Rx bars that Allyson brought with her, we saved so much money doing this in a famously expensive country). After unpacking our groceries, we ran over to Rossopomodoro for a celebratory Italian dinner. (Another side note: alcohol is extremely expensive in Iceland, which we knew, but found out the hard way when we wanted a glass of wine with our pasta. It came out to about $23 for a glass, so DEFINITELY grab your alcohol at the Keflavik Airport at duty-free and bring it with you if you want to drink).
On Day 2, we were up bright and early to do “The Golden Circle,” the iconic ring of destinations in the Southern part of the Island. First up was the amazing Thingvellir National Park. We learned so much about Icelandic history at their visitor center and I adored their gift shop. (Also, if I could start every day with an Icelandic skyr, I would. I haven’t been able to find this brand in the states and none of the other versions compare. Such wonderful, yogurty goodness).
The Golden Circle: Gullfoss Waterfall
Nothing short of awe-inspiring. Rainbows galore and a true example of raw, natural power.
The Golden Circle: Geysir Geothermal Area
The below geysir is the original geothermal phenomenon that caused the word to be created. Also, please check out the warning signs below that were at the main visitor center and gift shop. Comedic gold.
You can walk around not only the perimeter of the crater, but can also go down to the crater floor. The third photo is where “Adventure Carly” was born as I trekked down the path. Also, Bjork held a concert on a temporary platform floating on the lake as fans watched from the crater walls, so that is wild.
Touring Reykjavik: The capitol city is incredible. We toured the Hallgrimskirkja Church (which our Airbnb had an incredible view of), walked past the Sunvoyager Sculpture, Statue of Ingolfr Arnarson, and shopped to our hearts content. For souvenirs, I grabbed items at Icewear, Nordic Store, and the Reykjavik Gift Store, to name a few. I also bought a beautiful ring at Aurum that is still lost somewhere inside my car. #notoverit
We did not go to a ton of restaurants to help save some cash, but we loved Hofnin, Braud & Co., and Eldsmidjan Pizza. Hofnin was by far the best meal we had, every one of our plates was delicious (my fish dish pictured below), and it has an incredible view of the water.
We also saw the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra at the awe-inspiring Harpa, which was definitely a highlight of the trip.
There are many naturally occurring hot springs that form little hot tubs, or “hot pots,” throughout Iceland. We visited the Landbrotalaug Hot Pot, which was so much fun. Nothing like walking through an Icelandic field in your swimsuit!
We stopped at the Bjarnarfoss Waterfall before going to my favorite spot in Iceland.
Budakirkja – The Black Church at Budir, was honestly a bit overwhelming for me, it was that beautiful. Starkly looking over the turbulent sea below, this church is a photographer’s dream. We even saw a fashion photo shoot as we were leaving. So. amazing.
The Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge is an opening in a jagged cliffside that is ripe for exploring!
Snaefellsnes Peninsula – The lava field walking path between Arnarstapi and Hellnar was one of the most quiet and peaceful moments of the trip. We all took some time to walk alone in the serenity and just enjoy the beauty. We also had some amazing fish & chips in Arnarstapi afterwards while overlooking the water.
The Reynisfjara Blacksand Beach at Vik is so crazy cool. However, make sure and keep a very safe distance from the water, as there are warning signs everywhere to avoid the treacherous waves.
The Skogafoss Waterfall is so powerful it’s scary (hence my hat blowing off below). By this point on our trip, we had kind of gotten into an “oh, another waterfall, cool…,” mentality, but that quickly changed when we got up close and personal with this behemoth.
Then came time for us to hop on the ferry and visit the Westman Islands to see us some puffins! First of all, let me just say, that water was GNARLY. I am not prone to sea sickness, but you definitely need some dramamine on this voyage. We were NOT well. Also, you 100% need to go on a tour with Eyja Tours. Our tour guide, Ebbi, is amazing and a life-long native of the island. We learned so much about spranga and the 1973 volcanic eruption, and of course about the amazing puffin nests that the island is famous for. We also got to check out the Vestmannaeyar Golf Course, which I dream of taking my dad, Tyler and Davis to some day.
I MET A PUFFIN. And we also stood on top of one of the windiest places in Europe. It was amazing. We also had no idea that we were on the island the night that the puffin babies jump from their nests and land into the town. No shade of a lie, it’s crazy. If you want to learn more, you definitely need to check out the Eyja Tours Instagram account (@eyjatours).
After the best tour I have ever been on, we stopped for a yummy lunch at Gott and went for a beer at The Brothers Brewery. Still the best fruit sour I’ve ever had!
After getting back to the mainland, we went and checked out the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall (which you may recognize from the “I’ll Show You,” Justin Bieber music video).
Snaefellsnes Peninsula – Our final stop was Kirkjufellfoss, one of the most photographed locations in Iceland, and for good reason. Absolutely STUNNING at sunset.
With that, our time in Iceland came to a close. At the Keflavik Airport, we stopped for drinks at Loksins Bar and grabbed a bite to eat at Nord before heading back home.
Have you been to Iceland? If so, what were your favorite parts of your trip?