Here's How To Do Iceland
I have been wanting to write this since the day we got back. I want to tell you everything we saw, did, ate, and took pictures of, but I am going to start by telling you this: Save your monies, your PTO hours, rent a camper van and GO!
We spent ten full days exploring every inch of Iceland that we could. At this time of year in Iceland, in between the busy summer season and freezing winter, we were able to get a flight round trip from Denver to Reykjavik for $490. It’s easy to spend that much money to a flight on the East Coast of the US. It was under seven hours direct flight and we flew through the night on Icelandair. We took a late flight on a Friday and woke up in Reykjavik the next morning around 7am. From the airport we took a shuttle, save your money and don't get a taxi, to the main bus station and then a quick taxi to CampEasy to pick up our camper van. We had the van for nine days and then spent our last night in Reykjavik, the capital city where we stayed at a cute little Airbnb in the Vesturbær district and were able to walk around really easily from there.
Technically, you can drive around the whole country (Ring Road) in 13 hours. It’s about the size of Ohio. Since there around are a bazillion things to see, ten days barely cut it! Unfortunately, there was about a mile on the Ring Road that was shut down from mudslides so we had a couple detours and a lot more driving but it was so worth it in the end. By the way, gas was around $7.50/gallon, so definitely keep that in mind while you are planning for this trip. So, while I talk about my itinerary through this post, please keep that in mind.
We drove A LOT more than we would have without that closure. We used this site for road closures and weather, as it changed every five minutes throughout our journey around the country.
What To Eat
While the flight was cheap to get there, everything else is really expensive, especially the food! Our first stop in town was at The Grey Cat for breakfast. Two egg plates with potatoes and meat with two coffees was $59. Needless to say, we went to Bonus grocery store right after that bill. We stocked up on Skyr yogurt, granola, apples, bananas, bread, peanut butter, jelly, and different dehydrated meals for dinners. The van was equipped with a mini fridge, camper stove, small coffee maker (at an additional charge), and even a small sink! We stopped again for groceries just over halfway through the trip at Kronan and I thought that was a better spot with TONS of options for car food.
We spent our last two days exploring Reykjavik. Since we had been eating out of our van for eight days we decided to treat ourselves. We hit up multiple coffee shops and restaurants to taste our way through Reykjavik. Some of the coffee shops we stopped in were Joe and Juice, Te and Kaffi, and Cafe Babalu. A couple of dinner stops were Icelandic Street Food for traditional Icelandic food and Salkavalka: Fish & More to get our fish fill of the trip.
Everyone kept talking about how much we needed a hot dog there, so we got one at Hlollabatar. Please don’t ask me to pronounce any of these names because that won’t happen. Ever. Overall the food was good, too expensive, and not really the reason why we went so it was totally okay for us.
What To See
One of the best unexpected parts of the trip were the hot springs all around the country. And no, I am not just talking about the Blue Lagoon, I am talking about all the geothermal pools in every town! Don't believe me? Check out Hot Pot Iceland. There are also as many pools as there are gas stations in this country. I also didn't expect to fall in love while on this trip but... THE HORSES. I wanted to take one home with me so bad. They are so friendly, beautiful, and are so willing to take beautiful photos with you. Seriously, I would have put Lucy in the van, but Teddy told me we didn’t have enough room.
Unfortunately, the Northern Lights only danced on our last night very faintly, but this is supposed to be one of the best times of the year to see them. Here is a breakdown of what we saw by region:
We were able to do the Golden Circle in one full day. Kerid Crater Lake, Fludir geothermal pool, Gulfoss waterfall, and the famous Geysir. The following day we drove through the Pingveller National Park, which was insanely gorgeous, on our way north to Akureyri.
Akureyri is the second largest city in Iceland but it's still a cute small town nestled right on the water at the end of a fjord. Northern Iceland is extremely beautiful and since you're a good drive from Reykjavik there aren't many other tourists so we were able to have places like the Laufas turf homes and the Hofsos swimming pool completely to ourselves. We also drove up to the Myvatn Nature Baths which was like the blue lagoon but had a "locals only" feel.
On our way back south we decided to detour off the Ring Road and out onto the Snaefellsnes Peninsula where I took a dip in the North Atlantic Ocean, saw more incredible waterfalls, and really enjoyed the best weather of the trip.
The final few days of travel was through the Southern Region where we saw Skogafoss, Dryholaey, Vik black sand beach, Fjaðrárgljúfur (the Grand Canyon of Iceland), the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, and the US Navy plane crash on Sólheimasandur. We came, and we saw. That is for sure.
How to Stay Active
I bought a travel yoga mat! Such a great purchase that I will continue to use on any trip as it’s easy to fold into your suitcase. I stretched at gas stations, did a quick 5-10 min HIIT workout on photo breaks, hiked around to see the things, and did yoga at campsites during wine breaks. I sat a lot, so no matter what it was hard to come back to “real” life after that fantasy world vacation but obviously always worth it.
All photos by Teddy Sirotek.