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Iceland 2017: Land of Fire and Ice

Iceland is hands down one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. The mountains, the glaciers, the waterfalls…all straight out of a nature documentary. It was also just nice to go to a place that’s not overflowing with people. Many of the stops that we made while driving were very peaceful and it was so refreshing to just experience quiet beauty for once.

In terms of how I got there, we flew from Dallas, TX to Minneapolis, MN to Reykjavik, Iceland. The flight from Minneapolis to Reykjavik was approx. 6 hours which is not bad at all. It was me, my parents, and our close family friends who we travel with often (7 of us total.) We had a tour guide that drove us around for the week, which I would definitely recommend if you are with a group. The guide was very knowledgeable and the van fit all of our stuff comfortably. And yes, the moms did bring an entire bag each of just Indian snacks that were both subjected to additional security scanning at the airport. Some things never change.

Day 1

We got in around 9am to Reykjavik and everyone was already tired from traveling. Our only plan for that day was to check into our hotel (Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura – highly recommend), get something to eat, nap, and then go to Blue Lagoon.

Blue Lagoon is one of those really popular tourist spots that pretty much everyone hits up. I asked my friend Shruthi (from the thehonestshruth) about some pointers and she graciously sent me her tips, which are now up on her blog – check it out here. I agree with everything that she had to say about the package options. We did the Premium package that included a towel, 2 face masks, a complimentary drink, a robe and slippers. The robe was nice but definitely not necessary because it’s $20 extra and you don’t get to keep it.

The Blue Lagoon is basically a pool of geothermal water that ranges between 98-104°F. It contains silica, algae, and a variety of minerals that are very beneficial to your skin. Our tour guide told us that his friend who suffers from psoriasis went to the Blue Lagoon and was amazed at how much it helped his skin. He now goes semi-regularly to help maintain the results. They really try to make this into a spa-like experience so everyone (regardless of what package you purchased) is able to try the Silica Mud Mask. It’s a deep cleansing mask that claims to reduce pore-visibility and strengthen your skin. You apply it for 5-10mins and rinse off right there in the pool. *Beware of dunking your whole face in the water because the water is extremely salty and will leave a really strong taste in your mouth.* All of the packages, minus the Standard package, include a second mask – the Algae Mask. This mask claims to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and provide overall nourishment and glow to your skin. These masks were fun to do and it was entertaining watching all the guys try to apply them and then get uncomfortable as they dried. However, if you think you want to purchase this later at the gift shop because of all the beneficial ingredients…you should know that they retail for $115 each. What.

Overall, this is definitely something I think people should do when visiting Iceland. It was very relaxing in the warm water and the added skincare component was awesome 🙂

Day 2

This was the beginning of our “Golden Circle” tour, which is basically a popular route that tourists take which covers all of the major landmarks and sights that Iceland has to offer. I won’t go into too much detail about every single thing that we did, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Þingvellir National Park – Famous for the rift valley that marks the division of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.

Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall) – Another very popular tourist attraction. This waterfall is fed by the second largest glacier in Iceland, Langjökull. Full disclosure: I snagged this image off of the internet because I did not have any pictures that showed the entirety of the waterfall, which is pretty amazing.

We ended the day by doing a snowmobile tour on the Langjökull glacier. I’ve never been snowmobiling before but man…it was so much more difficult than I thought it would be. I don’t know what it is about other countries, but their safety standards always seem to be much more lax than America. We were snowmobiling in an area with many twists, steep drops, and not to mention the extreme fog when we got to the top…but that seemed totally okay with the tour guides so we went along with it.

Day 3

One of the scenic stops that we took on the way to Glacier Lagoon.

Glacier Lagoon – This was one of my favorite places because of how beautiful the glaciers looked on top of perfectly still water.

Vatnajökull glacier – Iceland’s largest glacier, covering more than 8% of the country.

Diamond Beach – Named for the hundreds of ice “diamonds” scattered all over the beach. These are pieces of glacier that have broken off from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and have floated onto land.

Day 4

This was taken near Hvolsvöllur, a town known for its volcanoes and lava formations. We went to the Lava Museum there which was really cool; they had really great visuals and explanations of how volcanoes are formed.

Day 5

Goðafoss – Otherwise known as the Waterfall of the Gods. According to Norse mythology, a pagan priest decided to convert to Christianity and due to his decision, he threw the idols of his pagan/Norse gods into the waterfall. This was my favorite waterfall of all the ones we saw because we had a clear view of the water flowing down river and it was so blue.

Day 6

Skagafjörður – A town popular for horse breeding. Some fun facts about the Icelandic horse: They are bred in complete isolation, meaning it is the only breed of horse on the entire island. Apparently the filmmakers of Lord of the Rings originally wanted to make the movie in Iceland, but, since they wanted to bring their own (bigger) horses, and the Icelandic horse is pretty small, the Iceland government shot down the movie and the filmmakers ended up going to New Zealand.

Day 7

Our last full day here was spent in Reykjavik. We decided to go whale watching as it is pretty popular here…that ended up being a bad idea. I’ve gone whale watching in the past and I have never experienced a boat this rocky before. They gave everyone motion sickness pills beforehand, which I didn’t find necessary because I rarely ever experience motion sickness. Yeah, I took that pill quickly after we got onto open waters. Most people had their heads down on their tables because they were feeling nauseous so, needless to say, probably 95% of the people on the boat did not see a single whale, including myself.

Iceland was an amazing place to visit and I would definitely recommend it to nature-lovers. However, it is notoriously expensive. Normal meals that would cost maybe $10 here would be $40 there…it was horrifying. Definitely budget appropriately if want to visit. I went with my parents and they did not really find the need to cut corners everyday but if you are wanting to go with your significant other or with a group of friends, I would recommend checking out Shruthi’s blog post on how to save money while you are there!

In terms of how to pack for Iceland, here are some of my takeaways:

  • Triclimate jacket – Perfect because it will provide warmth from the cold and the outer shell is waterproof. This one from North Face is ideal.
  • Waterproof pants – These are great to put over your regular pants whenever you know it will be raining a lot or there is potential to get wet from waterfalls/snow. These pants from Academy worked wonderfully and they fold into a nice little pouch so it’s easy to carry around.
  • Hiking boots – We were going on trails everyday and because of the constant rain, mud was inevitable. I would do hiking boots or maybe bring a pair of sneakers that you don’t mind getting a little dirty and waterproof them (I love this spray, shout out to the boyfriend for sharing this sneakerhead secret with me.)
  • Umbrella – A heavy duty one. Iceland liked to hit us with a lot of wind while it was raining. Or, make sure you have a jacket that has a reliable hood to keep your head dry.
  • Waterproof gloves – It’s pretty much always cold and wet.
  • Reusable water bottle – The water there is very clean so no need to buy plastic water bottles.
  • Portable battery pack for your phone – This came in handy so many times. Here is my favorite.
  • Layers – Dress in layers as some days the weather does get nicer/warmer. Pants/leggings, long sleeve shirt, cardigan, jacket…just one combo that comes to mind.
  • Sleep/Eye mask – Since it does not get dark during the summer…having a pair of these to block out any remaining bits of light from your window is super helpful.
  • Long socks – Does anyone else suffer from their socks sliding halfway down their foot 2 mins after they’ve put them on? No? Just me? I desperately wished that I had brought some longer socks.
  • Slippers – I love wearing house slippers or even having a designated pair of flip-flops to just wear around the house, but this was particularly helpful in Iceland. It was generally cold and anytime we went in water, whether it was Blue Lagoon or a hot tub, having a pair of slippers came in super handy.

Restaurants to check out:

  • Gandhi Indian Restaurant
  • Hradlestin
  • Messinn
  • Noodle Station
  • Ramen Momo
  • Valdis
  • Glo

Please let me know if you have any questions that were not answered in this post if you are wanting to visit Iceland in the future 🙂

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