What’s With All the Hype About Iceland?!
Thanks to the internet and lots of different social media platforms, people are going nuts about Iceland. So what’s my take on the country?
It’s my favorite country, for a good reason. It’s like nowhere I have ever been before.
Now I am not the most traveled person, I have only dabbled in Latin America, South America, and Africa, spending most of my time in Europe. I have yet to reach Asia or Australia, but I can tell you based on where I have been Iceland is amazing. The land is breathtaking. Black volcanic rocks support green vegetation in a span of miles. Glaciers appear icy blue, but have faint dustings of the same volcanic ash, mixed with the melting of the glacier water, creating tunnels and caves, that sometimes only last for days, ever changing. So many people speak English, and are some of the nicest I have ever met. You can wander through the city of Reykjavik, alone, at night, as a woman. How rare. The only downside was the food, lots of salted fish and some interesting flavors, and no, I couldn’t muster up the bravery to try the fermented shark, although I had good intentions. Luckily, I survived on Noodle Station and hot dogs.
I know what questions you may have.
Was the Blue Lagoon touristy? Yes. Was it worth it? Definitely, yes.
Did you see the Northern Lights? Oh yes!!! It was like nothing I have ever seen before.
Would you go back? Iceland is the first country that I would return to. I am the person that feels that there are so many more places I would like to see, that I don’t like to return to where I have been. With Iceland, I felt like I didn’t experience all that I wanted to, and it was one of the best experiences that I have had, so I absolutely would return.
So, what are the top 5 five things I recommend you do around Reykjavik?
# 1) See the Northern Lights, Duh!
The Northern Lights are not a year round thing. Typically, they can be seen from September through March/April. We were in Iceland in September, but were lucky enough to have been on a tour all day, and our guides told us that the skies were supposed to be clear enough to see them. From Reykjavik, we took the bus to the Grotta Lighthouse around 10 pm. We were a bit over-eager, but it paid off because around 11:30, the lights came out and started to dance. It’s a unique thing to watch, because the lights waver in the sky, allowing the stars to sparkle through. The lights fade and grow brighter as they move.
#2) Climb a glacier
We booked a tour through Viator.com to go glacier hiking and climbing. The tour company had a shuttle that picked us up from our hostel and drove us to the meeting point. From here, we were given our helmets, ice picks, and crampons. The specific glacier that we hiked was Sólheimajökull. The tour started off with just hiking the glacier, drinking from the fresh glacier water, and eventually we were able to climb up the side of the glacier, and explore some caves. This was such a great learning experience, and the climbing was really exhilarating, but really hard! This was my favorite activity in Iceland.
#3) Swim in the Blue Lagoon
As previously mentioned, the Blue Lagoon is very touristy, but is also very worth it. This was something I had read about and thought that I didn’t want to pay to experience it, but I am so glad that I did. We booked this after we had climbed our glacier and knew we would be sore, and upgraded our package to include the robes, slippers, and free drinks in the restaurant. It was our “Treat yo’ self” day! We had the best time, floating around in the water, taking pictures, and putting the mud masks on. And the surrounding scenery is that luscious green landscape over the rocky volcanic leftovers.
#4) Enjoy the nightlife
Reykjavik is known for having a party scene, so you should take part! The main street boasts a variety of bars and clubs. Be forewarned, alcohol is expensive, with a beer equating to €13 or more. However, we found it was easy as a girl, to make friends, or better yet, make friends with bartenders. Try a shot of their local Brennivin while you’re at it! And when you decide you’re ready for bed, the streets are safe to walk home on!
#5) Get a view of the city from Hallgrimskirkja
One of my favorite activities, in every city that I visit, is to get a bird’s eye view of the city. You can find this at the church Hallgrímskirkja. Reykjavik is a small, walkable city, so it’s easy to get to. There is a small entrance fee to ride the elevator to the top which helps to maintain the church. Once at the top, you’ve got a great view of all the colorful houses, Lake Tjornin, and the ocean.
- The Golden Circle Tour-We toured Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, the Geysir, and saw Icelandic horses.
- Kolapartid Flea Market-Looked at different market items, and tried lots of different bakery foods like lava bread and dried fish.
- Skollfoss waterfall-Able to see this large waterfall after climbing our glacier.
What are activities I will do when I return to Iceland?
I think to visit Iceland and do it right, you should rent a car and drive the Ring Road. I missed out on Vik Beach (black sand), the abandoned airplane, and countless waterfalls and volcanoes. Iceland is small, and can be driven in about a week. I also made the mistake of booking a tour to snorkel Silfra Fissure the day I was supposed to arrive, and my flight was delayed almost five hours, so it was a non-refundable missed opportunity! The fissure divides Europe from North America, and the tours were all booked up for other days.
Have you been to Iceland? What would you recommend?