What To Do In… Iceland!

We recently returned from a weeklong visit to Iceland (wasn’t long enough!)  I loved everything about this country!  The warm and friendly Icelandic people, the amazingly fresh seafood, the ancient Viking mythology and history of the country, and last but not least, the awe-inspiring natural landscape and features.  I mean, how many waterfalls can one country host?

We only had a week to enjoy the spectacular country, and this blog highlights some of our experiences and my recommendations for visiting the Western/Southwestern regions.

Kirkjufellfoss, Snaefellsnes Peninsula (with Kirkjufell Mountain in the background)

The Blue Lagoon

You must hit the Blue Lagoon! It’s the world-famous geothermal spa set amongst the lava rock landscapes, roughly south of the Keflavik airport. I recommend hitting it on the way in, or on the way out, since it is nearer to the airport than it is to Reykjavik.  Plan to spend a few hours there, if you can, and get there in the early part of the morning. We arrived at 9am, and found it started getting pretty busier as noon approached. For your convenience, they have full locker rooms and showers and you can even stay there in their hotel if you want.  Spring for the “Premium” level admission, you’ll get a robe to use and slippers you can keep, as well as a couple of free drinks with your ticket.

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Glacier Hiking & Horseback Riding

I fell in love with pictures of the cute “miniature” Icelandic horses, so we booked a tour where you ride horses for 2 hours then you get lunch at the horse ranch.

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Matt with his trusty Icelandic steed. This is a full grown horse!

After, the guide takes you in a van to the Solheimajokull glacier where you hike for 2 hours to, and on, the glacier. You have to use crampons!  The glacier hike was my favorite part of the whole trip. It’s massive as you walk on it, and I loved viewing all the natural and ever-changing features of the glacier as the ice morphs every day. Our guide was very knowledgeable and taught us about the different ice comprising the glacier. We even drank from the glacier’s pure melted water! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I could have done without the horses though. They’re so cute, but I was sore for days after riding them, just not used to it. They LOVE to trot, in their Icelandic gait called the Tolt!  If you book the glacier tour only thru this co. please ask for Henrik (not sure of spelling) he was a great guide!

Layers of blue ice, white ice, and ash from the 2010 eruption.

Layers of blue ice, white ice, and ash from the 2010 eruption.

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is a tour that encompasses many famous Icelandic sights in a single day.  On our tour through ExtremeIceland.is, we were picked up by a huge Super Jeep.  We visited the Gulfoss Waterfall, Geysir, Thingvellir, and then finished our day with a snowmobile tour of another glacier.  During the drive to/from the glacier, he took us off-road and we drove THROUGH A RIVER. Wow!  We stopped for lunch at our jeep driver’s friend’s restaurant. So fun! Our guide here was called Jannes (Yannis?) I only know it phonetically!  He was also great.

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Our friend Rob, with the Super Jeep for scale!

Gulfoss Waterfall

Gulfoss Waterfall

Icelandic Geysir

Geysir (Geyser)

Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir, site of the first Parliament of Iceland

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Getting ready to snowmobile the Langjokull glacier!

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Matt and I rented a car and for 2 days we drove up to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula from Reykjavik. First we visited the little fishing town of Stykkisholmur and took a boat tour for the afternoon where we took in bird life along the cliffs of the islands dotting the sea, and ate “Viking Sushi” from a net that the boat caught as we were cruising. The boat deckhands shucked the scallops from the sea for us, right there! Minutes old!

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After a quick dinner back on land in Stykkisholmur (because Viking sushi is not filling), we continued driving west from Stykkisholmur and stayed 1 night in a guesthouse called Sudur-Bar because there were no hotels with vacancy in the area. It was beautiful, situated overlooking the scenic fjord.

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View of the fjord from Sudur-Bar Guesthouse

Of note, BOOK EARLY is my biggest advice to you… if you don’t already have lodging sorted out DO IT NOW!!!

The next day, we continued driving west from Grundafjordur on Rte 54 and checked out the sights like lava fields, a golden sand beach where a viking grave was discovered, and a whale watching site with 2 lighthouses where we stopped and ate a picnic lunch.

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The beach where the viking grave had been discovered in 1961

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Lava fields

We continued south into the Snaefellsjokull national park, and I wish we had time to do a tour and glacier hike in this park.  The glacier can be seen from almost the entire Snaefellsnes peninsula!  It is so beautiful.

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Snaefellsjokull Glacier

We did a great hike from Hellnar to Anarstapi along the coast and checked out amazing basalt formations with birds screeching in and out of the nooks.

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Reykjavik

Walking around downtown Reykjavik is cool.  The bar-filled street, Laugavegur, is fun but very touristy obvs. We didn’t do a lot of bar hopping.  Check out the Public House bar, the food is really good!  It’s gastropub-like but with a Japanese bent. Skip the Lebowski bar – ugh!  Even the namesake white russians were awful.  And the music sucked.  Resto is fantastic for dinner – you have to try their raw fish appetizer.  Insanely fresh – salmon, scallops, and whitefish!  Delicious wine too.  I also really liked the Scandinavian even though it is just a hotel restaurant.  I had a delicious lobster pasta (very generous with the lobster, aka langoustine) and Matt had a stunning lamb tenderloin there. Finally, Laundromat Cafe had good burgers and sandwiches and everything came with a salad 🙂

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Fresh fish appetizer garnished with seaweed, at Resto

I feel like we went at the best time of the year.  Yeah, there were a lot of other tourists, but the weather was awesome, especially on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  It rained a bit in Reykjavik for us.  But we still had great conditions, especially when driving.  Have a blast in Iceland!

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