Ever hear that saying, “Iceland is green and Greenland is icy”? Confusing as it is, it’s pretty spot on. What they should also include (as a side note) is that Iceland is one of the strangest and most beautiful places on earth. Last summer my boyfriend Shane, my brother Mike, and I decided to make plans to go to London for a week. Shane, being the savvy travel planner that he is, discovered that it was cheaper for us to fly round trip with Iceland’s WOW airlines (like the US’s version of Spirit airlines) Since we were stopping in Iceland along the way, why not just stay there for a day or two and check it out? Done and done! For 48 hours we were going to immerse ourselves into the Icelandic culture. Here are 8 things we did when we were in Iceland and you should definitely work into your own itinerary:
1. Fly with WOW Airlines
An extremely affordable option when trying to fly overseas. WOW Airlines sometimes has some crazy deals for flying one way out of Boston or Washington DC to Reykjavik. You just have to book it at the right time and to be willing to pack very light. They charge you for carry on luggage as well as your checked luggage. Time to learn how to live out of a backpack…
2. Stay in Reykjavik
We went through Airbnb and stayed at a cozy apartment near the Church of Iceland aka Hallgrímskirkja (yeah good luck sounding that out). Reykjavik is very walk-able and our apartment was close enough to all the downtown sights.
3. Rent a car (but make sure it’s automatic!)
Unless you’ve signed up with a tour group, I would highly suggest renting a car. But be warned, when renting make sure that the car is automatic. Most of the cars in Iceland are manual. When we finally got our rental car (at 4 am blehhh) we didn’t realize the car was manual until we had the keys in the ignition. Yikes. Luckily Shane knows how to drive a stick, but he was a bit rusty. Not ideal when you’re cruising along the highway and all of the sudden you have to go on a roundabout (so many of them), you stall out, and the panic sets in. But we survived and I’m glad we had rented our own car because we got to go and see some really cool stuff on our own time.
4. Hit up the Reykjavik night scene
We got on the topic of favorite alcoholic shots to which both my brother and I said we couldn’t take Jägermeister. A local Icelander laughed and with a straight face (I kid you not) says “Yeah Jäger is good. It’s a good chaser after a vodka shot.” Whaaaaa… In other words, Icelanders party and they party hard. There’s a great night scene with a variety of themed bars to choose from in Reykjavik. They even had an American themed one that had a lot of sports memorabilia, Willy Nelson pictures, and a stuffed grizzly bear. Definitely sounds about right. Other notable bars:
· D10 or Dúfnahólar 10- a bar decorated to look like the apartment of a famous Icelandic 90’s movie. What could be better than a table that is a bath tub full of fish?
· Lebowski Bar- Yes, a bar themed around the movie The Big Lebowski. A menu containing a plethora of white Russians drinks to choose from and a red rug out front. If you’re not into the Dude then yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.
5. Swim in a hot spring or two
When we arrived we had time to spare before we checked into our Airbnb. What better way to kill time than soak in the geothermal waters Iceland is known for. The Blue Lagoon is the most well known spot. Overcome your jet lag in these warm murky blue waters and apply the silica mud mask to your face to feel like a totally different person. Another hot spring option is Reykjadular, a 40-minute drive away from Reykjavik. Totally.Worth.It. It’s a short hike up to a valley with a hot spring running right through it. It’s so picturesque; it’s disgusting. Be warned: there’s a reason why most people stay down stream. A boiling hot stream meets a cool water stream creating the perfect soaking temperature. We had the unfortunate experience of discovering just the boiling hot stream at first.
6. Try the local cuisine
Saegreifinn (The Sea Baron) is a cozy, little no frills restaurant right on Reykjavik’s harbor that serves up some delicious lobster soup. They have other tasty treats there as well. Fish kabobs, filets, and whale. Yes whale. It did not taste like what I expected. I’m all for trying different and “weird” cuisine, and usually I like it, this…I did not. It looked like steak, had the texture of steak, but the taste was overwhelmingly fishy. Not my cup of tea but I know of others who really like it and I encourage you to go outside your comfort zone and try it! Other notable things to try when walking about downtown Reykjavik:
· Black licorice ice cream- super popular, slightly off putting because of the color.
· Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur - many have claimed it’s the best hot dog in the world
7. Check out the Golden Circle
Geysir’s, waterfalls, and glaciers… oh my! This is when renting a car comes in handy. The drive out to these natural wonders alone is breath taking. Volcanic barren landscapes, jagged mountains, rugged coastal lines, and quaint little towns are only some of the things you see on your ride out. Not to mention you get to see the Emo ponies that roam the countryside. So cute.
8. Listen to the song “Titanium” in Icelandic
So freakin’ good.