In November, Lindsey was stalking one of our favorite Instagram stars, Julia Engel, and texted me saying that we needed to go to Iceland immediately. Fast forward 24 hours, we had assembled a crew of fellow wanderlust-ers/Insta-worthy-content-chasers and bought ourselves (very cheap) tickets to Iceland for April. Its probably the PR girl in me, but I’m a super heavy planner, especially when it comes to international travel, so I set up a multi-tabbed Google Doc immediately to map out our time in Iceland. Some may laugh at the extremity, but its really a lifesaver. (If you want to peep at the doc itself, send us an email!)
Here is an abridged, but still very long version of how we spent our time in the land of fire and ice. (Sorry, that was cheesy, right?)
Day 1: Blue Lagoon + Exploring Reykjavik
We hopped off our of WOW airlines flight at 5AM local time and got our rental car (more on that later). We had pre-purchased tickets for the Blue Lagoon when they opened at 8AM and totally recommend to anyone who is in a similar situation. It was a super fun and relaxing way to come off of a 5 hour budget flight. You also beat the crowds and get the best photos in a less crowded lagoon. After a few hours, we were feeling maxed out on the lagoon, put on our robes and headed to the in house restaurant for our lunch reservation. The meal was delicious and our tickets got us a free bottle champagne. Win/win.
We went back to check into our Airbnb in downtown Reykjavik, showered and headed for a night out, but first had a delicious dinner at Svarta Kaffi. The restaurant specializes in soup served in a bread bowl and has 2 soups on the menu each day.
As for our only night out in Reykjavik, we bar hopped on Laugavegur, I couldn’t tell you any of the bar names, but they all were fun and crowded on a Saturday night.
Day 2: Touring Southwest Iceland
After a delicious breakfast at Grai Kotturinn, we hit the road the next morning and toured all over Southwest Iceland, stopping to pet the beautiful Icelandic horses every hour or so.
Along the way, we stopped at Kerið, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall (you know, the one you’re able to walk behind), Skogafoss (where we walked up roughly 800 steps to reach the top), the black sand beach in Vic and lastly, Fjaðrárgljúfur. Net net, seeing these amazing places was way worth the long day in the car.
Kaitlin, Marissa, Suzanne and Lindsey at Kerið
at the top of Skogafoss
#nature at Fjaðrárgljúfur
Day 3: Driving the Eastern Coast to Akueryi
This day…it was a long journey. We knew it was a trek from the start, we had it mapped out as a 6 hour drive in our itinerary. Before we knew just what we were getting into, we stopped at my favorite place in Iceland, Diamond Beach. I mean…look at it. Its amazing, no other words. We took an hour to walk around, take photos and even creep on a photoshoot happening on the beach with a rogue horse.
Then we really hit the road. I volunteered to drive to avoid what seemed like inevitable motion sickness and ended up behind the wheel the whole day. We had heard so much about Puffins, we decided we had to try to see some since it was early in the season. This was our first mistake. We intentionally drove out of our way two hours to the remote town of Borgarfjörður Eystri in northeast Iceland in pursuit of puffins. I drove over a mountain, through a snow storm to get to this teeny tiny town, which was so small we barely saw another human being there.
We were expecting to at least get an authentic Icelandic meal out of it, but found the single restaurant a bit uninviting, so we backtracked a bit and ended up at Guesthouse Egilsstadir, where we all order the exact same thing, which turned out to be our favorite meal of the trip, a cheeseburger with spicy date-purée, bacon, salad, whiskey glaze and curly fries. Highly recommend. After driving through another snow storm in the dead of night, we finally got to the Icelandier Hotel Akureyri at 1am. Our hotel room was complete with bunk beds, it was truly precious.
Day 4: Dog Sledding in Akueryi and Closing Ring Road
Another one of our favorite activities in Iceland came early the next morning. We woke up a few hours later for our private dog sledding session (!!!!), it was just the thing to lift us out of our haze of exhaustion. I highly recommend Inspiration Iceland should you ever be in the market. The dogs were super friendly and our tour guides were great, telling us all about Akureyi on our way up the mountain and later allowing ample time for photo shoots with the dogs (#priorities).
After dog sledding, we closed out our trip around Ring Road and begrudgingly drove back to Reykjavik.
Day 5: Snorkeling & Lava Caving
For our last activity, we booked a half day excursion for snorkeling and lava caving. We snorkeled in the Silfra Fissure which is the only place in the world where you can snorkel between two drifting tectonic plates. I was super intimidated by this for a few reasons: having to get into a dry suit (I was envisioning a Hannah Horvath situation), being submerged in a natural body of water in Iceland in winter and every time I snorkel I get water in my mouth piece and freak out. Luckily, all of my fears were unwarranted. Getting into the dry suit was uncomfortable, but not as awful as I expected; the water temp was totally fine (because of said dry suit); I did get water in my mouth piece, but reminded myself it was water (and at that, some of the cleanest in the world), swallowed it and stopped myself from freaking out.
between North American and European tectonic plates
Caving was also cool, but not my favorite activity. There was a lot of crawling involved and I ended up with very bruised legs.
Afterwards, we got back to Reykjavik and did some drinking, eating (at Sæta Svínið) and shopping.
Day 6: Cry and go home
Our last day in Iceland was a half day, so we checked out of our Airbnb and grabbed a really cute breakfast at the Laundromat Cafe, returned our rental car and went to the airport. Bye bye, Iceland, you were a dream!
Housekeeping & Closing Thoughts:
- Oh yeah, the car: We rented a RAV4 from SAD (Safe & Dependable) Cars. They’re notorious for being the budget choice in Iceland and we definitely had a budget experience. The car was very bare bones without automatic locks and one of the doors barely closed. On our last night in Reykjavik, someone broke into our locked car to steal what was left of our Duty Free liquor and take our GPS, which was easily 20 years old. My theory is the jacked door made it easy to enter, but who knows. There is no insurance offered to cover rented accessories, so beware. Iceland is known to be a very safe and friendly place, but don’t get too comfortable.
- Where We Stayed: Fosshotel Glacial Lagoon // Icelandier Hotel Akureyri // Airbnb in Reykjavik