You know those moments in life where your eyes are taking in something so beautiful that your brain isn’t quite sure how to process it? You want to cry and all you can say over and over again is “oh my gosh, this is beautiful.” I imagine that people feel like that when they first see their new baby. Well, I feel like that about Iceland. Honestly it holds the mostly lovely nature I have ever seen. And since it’s the happening place to go right now, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite places and some tips along the way.
Three friends and I hit the road and drove southeast along the coast.* We were so thankful we rented a car because it allowed us crazy amounts of freedom to stop at ever waterfall our eyes landed on. The best deal we found was SADCARS. The name says it all, you're pretty much guaranteed to get an old crappy car. But, in a weird homey way, you’ll feel very attached to it in the end. And the answer is "yes", you should shell out a little extra cash for the GPS, it’ll be worth it.
We were there for four full days and every one of us wished we were there longer, but we also felt like we were able to see a lot without rushing around. Food is CRAZY expensive (as in I paid $18 for a ham and grilled cheese sandwich), so pack snacks or be prepared. The great news is almost every activity is free, so you’re saving money that way ... right?
We just drove southeast down the coast and the furthest we went was Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon (more on that later). The last day we had more time than we thought so we headed north and hit up most of the golden circle. That being said, we’d recommend the south more, it was glorious and a bit less touristy.
The first day in town we hit up the Blue Lagoon. I’ve heard people hate on the lagoon because “it’s too touristy”, but I will defend this place until my dying day. My skin felt as smooth as a baby’s bottom for four days afterward and my muscles have never felt looser. Go and fall in love my friends. That night we stayed four in a room in a quaint little guesthouse off a happening street in Reykjavik — totally recommend. (Side note- the water is ripe with the smell of sulfur so just mentally prepare yourself.)
The next day we set out for Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, one of my two favorite waterfalls on the trip. The sheer size of it was breathtaking, but what made it so special was that you can walk behind it and get drenched in the mist. And in case that isn’t incentive enough, Justin Bieber filmed part of his "I'll Show You" video here. There are baby waterfalls all around it that you can walk by and explore. From there we headed to a hidden hot springs located on a volcano. Before we went on this trip I would have said a secret hot springs, but let’s be real, the secret’s out because, well … tourists. But, out of the love of a good secret I’m not going to tell you where it is … unless you email me … or stalk my Instagram.
Feeling refreshed we made our way to Skogafoss Waterfall where we were greeted with a double rainbow. So yeah, that was magical. In case you were wondering, the Biebs was here too. You’re welcome.
That night we longed to stay in the cute town of Vik, but hadn’t made reservations early enough to make it happen. Whether you stay there for the night or not, make a stop out of it and feel the black sand between your toes while taking in the cliffs, valley views and sweet red church. Where we did stay was Hof, which is literally in the middle of nowhere … as the feisty hotel staff told us multiple times. Make sure to eat before you arrive as we paid $40 for an average hotel chicken dinner. It was worth it though because in the morning we were greeted by two traveling angels at breakfast who told us about a place we left off of our itinerary, but ended up becoming our favorite stop of the trip...
Behold, Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, our farthest stop east on the journey. On one side of the road you get an amazing view of glaciers and their little children floating in crystal clear water. On the other you step onto black sand beaches and can embrace the glacial melt that has floated up on the shore. It was unlike anything we’d ever seen before and we wanted to stay forever … alas, the rest of Iceland was calling us.
On the way back toward Reykjavik we stopped at Svartifoss Waterfall. There’s an easy hike to get there and the views at the top (a wee bit past the falls) are almost more lovely than the waterfall itself. Take your time and just soak it in.
From there we journeyed up a narrow windy road to Dyrhólaey — really cool cliffs overlooking glaciers on one side and black sand beaches. This ended up being one of our favorite activities of the trip, just sitting at the top and taking in the view.
That last night we stayed in Selfoss and, realizing we had a whole day in front of us, planned a quick jaunt around the golden circle for the next day. We saw Gulfoss, my second favorite waterfall of the trip because you get a bird’s eye view of the intersecting points at the top. The geysers on the route are called Strokkur and Geysir and were nice, but didn’t knock our socks off compared to everything else.
Enjoy and make sure to post a comment below so I can live vicariously through your trip!
PS- You can see more photos from our trip here.
*Let me preface that my sweet friends planned this entire trip while I was buried under a mountain of school work. I can take NO credit when it comes to all the awesome stuff they planned for us.