Julie Travels: Iceland

Hello there! Today I’m sharing more about my time in Iceland, this time it’s all about our adventures outside the city of Reykjavík. Since I was only in Reykjavík for two days with the troop, we didn’t venture outside of the city at all, so I was really looking forward to my time with Chelsea to see more of Iceland. We were fortunate to have four full days in Iceland. One of those was spent in and around Reykjavík, and the other three were road trip days!

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Obviously, the first thing we needed for our road trips was a car, and we rented right from the airport. Had I known what I know now, I would’ve rented from a company I was more familiar with (there are several companies that also have a presence stateside).

The company we went with was fine, but I think I would’ve been more at ease with a place I had rented from before. Lesson learned! There are options for day trip tour buses, but we liked the flexibility of having our own car so we could be on our own schedule. The roads were easy to navigate and once we got a sense for what the different signs and symbols meant, we were comfortable interpreting them along the way.

On our first full day, we decided to explore the Golden Circle. This incredible drive takes you past Kerid Crater Lake, Geysir, Gulfoss Waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park. The trip is definitely doable in about 5 or 6 hours, depending on how often/for how long you stop. We got to see Icelandic horses and tons of sheep along the way, too. It was on this day that we also stopped at the tomato farm I blogged about on Monday.

I found this link helpful when mapping out what we’d see. I loved this drive! I feel like it’s the perfect day trip, because it’s not too far and the roads are well maintained (…at least in the summer. I’m not sure what Iceland is like in the winter, but what I read says you should only drive in winter if you’re comfortable driving in snow).

Kerid Crater Lake: this was our first stop on the Golden Circle Drive, and we really enjoyed the hike down to the lake and around the perimeter. The teal water contrasting against the marroonish red crater walls made this a spectacular site.

Geysir: Several geysers erupt at this landmark stop, and we got to see the eruptions happen a few times. So cool to see!

Gulfoss Waterfall: Pictures of this waterfall really don’t do it justice. It was massive! In the picture on the right below, you can sort of see people on the ledge toward the back of the photo, which helps give some perspective to how incredibly huge this was.

Thingvellir National Park: We were so excited to add an Iceland National Park to our visit list! We basically just drove through the park, and stopped at a few overlooks to take in the vast landscape of the area. Gorgeous!

Our next day trip was driving part of the Ring Road, which is the road that circles the entire country of Iceland. This drive is absolutely amazing! During this trip, we made it as far as Hofn, which is 451 km (280 miles) from Reykjavík. The total length of the Ring Road is 1332 km (828 miles), so we only saw about a third of it.

On this particular day we also went kayaking for four hours, so all total we were on this day trip for 18 hours. It was amazing and it was exhausting!!

One tip we heard in advance, and I’m so glad we listened, was that we should take snacks and lunch with us on this day trip. There are a few stops along the way, and it seems like they’re getting more now that so many people are visiting Iceland. Nevertheless, we were pleased with our picnic food, and it also saved us from having to stop for meals, which meant we could get where we were going more quickly (We picked up sandwiches and snacks from our favorite bakery, Sandholt, which I blogged about on Monday).

There are so many amazing sites to stop and see along the southern portion of the Ring Road. We saw a black sand beach, several amazing waterfalls, and several glacial lagoons, including the one we kayaked in.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall: We really enjoyed the hike up around and behind this waterfall. It was incredible, and the views from behind the waterfall were equally amazing!
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon: This lagoon was absolutely a breathtaking site. The lagoon has a small passageway to the Atlantic Ocean, which causes the temperature of the water to change frequently. This results in those big chunks of ice flipping upside down, and the landscape of these icebergs changing almost daily.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach: this beach was beautiful! Since we were there at sunset, we saw thousands of puffins flying from the rocky cliff out to the ocean in search of dinner.

Our kayaking trip was definitely a bucket list item for Chelsea and me. We had a great time, and at certain points we both just looked at each other like “is this actually happening?! So crazy cool!” We used Arctic Adventures, and they were a wonderful tour company. They provided all the necessary gear and our group was small, which I appreciated.

If I could do this trip all over again, I would’ve opted to change lodging every night for a portion of our trip so that we could see more of the Ring Road and not just have to do an out-and-back trip. One thing we saw that really intrigued us was Happy Campers, which is a camper van rental company. We thought those looked really fun, and would be a great way to experience the Ring Road. And, if you ever got tired of your camper and needed a hotel for a night, there seemed to be several lodging options all along the way.

Our final day trip was our trip to the Blue Lagoon. Before I went to Iceland, I had heard/read mixed reviews about the Blue Lagoon, but I have to say Chelsea and I both really enjoyed ourselves there. On the day we were there, the weather was perfect, so we really enjoyed everything about the entire experience! This is one of those “it’s touristy, but you gotta do it at least once!” kind of things in my book.

We went into it knowing it is touristy, and likely would be crowded. We were pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t actually crowded on the day we went. We opted for a morning entry time, which likely helped with the crowds. Plus, the lagoon itself is massive, so even as the day went on and more people started arriving, it never felt crazy. I definitely recommend buying tickets in advance to save time in line upon arrival.

We opted for the Comfort Package, which gave us use of a towel, a free drink of choice, and an algae mask (this was in addition to the mud mask that is complimentary for everyone). There are several other package options available, some lower priced and some higher priced, and this one worked perfect for us.

All total, we spent about four hours at the Lagoon, and really that felt like plenty of time. In that time, we got to see all the different parts of the lagoon, enjoyed our two masks, and enjoyed our cocktails. Then, we showered and got ready to head to the airport for our evening flight home!

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Beautiful! Amazing! Gorgeous! Incredible! I’m pretty sure I used those words multiple times when talking about Iceland. And really, it is all of those things. If Iceland has never been a place you considered visiting, I highly encourage you to add it to your list. You won’t be disappointed.

With this post, that’s a wrap on my #julietravels Europe adventure recap! It was an amazing three weeks abroad, and I hope some of these posts inspired you to plan your own European vacation!

Party on!
JW

 

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