While writing last weeks blog, I realized that there was so much more to the trip that I wanted to include, but there were too many words and not enough time to get it all down. If you missed out on the first half of my trip to Iceland, click here to read part one of this two-part experience.
Throughout the second half of my trip, not only did I get to experience the many tourists’ attractions that the neighboring towns had to offer, but I also got a glimpse of Reykjavik’s night-life, the infamous blue lagoon, and how expensive the cost of living is for the people of Iceland.
According to data derived from Numbeo.com, Iceland is the world’s 4th most expensive country to live. With Switzerland ranking in number one, Iceland comes close in terms of ripping the money right out of your pockets. However, this is not an excuse to place your first visit on hold. Reykjavik has a lot to offer, even if you are on a budget.
Dyrholaey: Door Hole Island
The name sounds funny and a little provocative, but the uphill walk to the lighthouse on top makes up for it all.
The view from Dyrhólaey is interesting too. To the north, you can see the big glacier Mýrdalsjökull. To the east, the black lava columns of the Reynisdrangar come out of the sea, and to the west the entire coastline in the direction of Selfoss is visible. The weather made everything clear behind the lens and was truly worth the walk that killed my legs in the process.
Skógafoss Waterfall and Mýrdalsjökull Glacier
Who doesn’t love a good waterfall while light flurries of snow smack you in the face? This was my experience at skógafoss waterfall and I would not have wanted it to be any other way. What made the waterfall so special was the rainbow that cascaded from the water, reflecting its colors across for all of us to see.
Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland, with a drop of 60 meters and a width of 25 meters, and you can walk right up to, which I was able to do but be prepared to be drenched. It is just overwhelming standing next to it that you almost forget where you are for a split second. I’ve always taken a liking to waterfalls and to see skógafoss in all it’s glory really made the trip worth wild.
About twenty minutes up the road was the Mýrdalsjökull glacier north of Vík í Mýrdal and to the east of the smaller ice cap Eyjafjallajökull. Mýrdalsjökull is the country’s fourth largest ice cap, covering nearly 600 kilometers squared, and its highest peak is almost 1500 meters tall. Covering the highly active and overdue Katla volcano. The caldera of the volcano has a diameter of 10 km (6 mi) and the volcano usually erupts every 40–80 years. At first glance (and not knowing what a glacier looked like) I was stunned to see the massive glacier and its iciness. The mini hike up the hill maximized the anticipation of seeing the glacier itself and it did not disappoint. Although I did not get to see the volcano, it is on my list of sights to see for my next visit.
The Blue Lagoon
Known for its skin rejuvenate powers, mineral-infused water, and relaxing atmosphere is the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. Located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, the blue lagoon is just what I needed after spending a few days on my feet. At first glance, you could easily mistake the lagoon for a power plant or another less enticing infrastructure. Surrounded by the geothermal plant in which it is operated on, the Blue Lagoon brings hundreds of tourists and locals alike together to experience a little piece of heaven.
Blue Lagoon footage powered by viator.com
If the Blue Lagoon is too touristy for your liking, then you’ll be pleased to know that Iceland has numerous hot springs that you can bathe in all year round, however, be aware that some hot springs are much hotter than others so proceed with caution.
Here is a full list of natural geothermal hot springs to put on your list of places to visit in Iceland, free of charge.
While in Iceland, I got the chance to stay in a little town called Reykjavik. With a population of fewer than 200,000 people, this vibrant downtown area is rich in food, culture, and drinking. As I mentioned previously, Iceland is the world’s 4th most expensive country to live, so it was a no-brainer to opt out of staying in a hotel as many travelers do in exchange for a comfortable Airbnb for nearly half the cost.
One major thing to keep in mind before planning is food, just like everything else in Iceland will be expensive no matter where you stay so if your trip is longer than three days, I recommend stopping by a grocery store to stock up on snacks and on the go sandwiches. I would save the eating out for dinner, or special outings.
If you thrive on the nightlife like myself, then Iceland is the place for you! With no cover charge, endless bar hopping and the 5am close time (for some venues) you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the diverse crowds walking the streets of Reykjavik.
Reykjavik’s nightlife is oddly like New Orleans Bourbon Street minus the cold weather and mini size blocks. The music that is heard around 1 a.m. will get you on your feet quick! I was also impressed to see the fashion statements that passed my eye throughout the night, stopping to give kudos of fur jackets, leather pants, and dazzling accessories that peaked out of oversized coats.
While prowling the streets the Lebowski Bar was one of the many places recommended by locals. Known for its Americanized food and spinning wheel of mystery, this bar should be your first stop when experiencing the lay of the land in Reykjavik.
There are also many bars and restaurants located on the neighboring street, Hverfisgata, though this area is noticeably quieter. As you leave the main street, you will see that Laugavegur becomes Bankastræti, which then becomes Austurstræti. Bars can be found along this entire strip.
Besides the array of bars and underground events, there are certain days of the year that have Icelanders flocking downtown. These include March 1st Icelandic Beer Day and the ‘First Day of Summer’, always on a Thursday in late April. Gay Pride Festival, in early August, is also a staple in the city, celebrating the LGBTQ community and their contribution to life and love in Iceland.
In May, college and university graduations take place where hundreds of college students, dressed up in their best, celebrate the year’s academic achievements throughout downtown.
Iceland has a lot to offer if you are looking for an array of things to do. From hiking to relaxing or grabbing a bite to eat, the beauty of this country is like no other.
Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran Parish Church
On the last day of my trip, I had the pleasure of viewing Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran church in the heart of downtown Reykjavík.
At 74.5 meters high, it is the largest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in Iceland. Due to time, I was not able to go to the top of the church to view the entire town, but here is a video that shows you what it looks like at the top.
The interior is 1,676 square meters (18,040 sq ft). In 2008, the church underwent a major restoration of the main tower and was covered in the framework. In late 2009, restoration was completed, and the framework was removed.
Planning Your Trip to Iceland
Luckily, I was able to experience this trip with a friend who exceeded my expectations when it came to the ins and outs of the trip. Without his knowledge and adventurous spirit, I’m sure my time here would not have been as fulfilling.
If you are not a fan of traveling in large spaces (ex: tour groups) My suggestion would be to print out a map of Iceland and research landmarks or hidden gems to visit. From there, mark off a few places that you would like to see, locate the distance between each destination and go from there. You can really tailor this trip to your liking without the use of tour guides or travel agencies.
Cheap flights are also great to come by and I was super lucky in catching a deal through Wow Air. Only $230 round trip, don’t sleep on the lesser known airlines when traveling internationally. When booking with Wow Air, you are allowed one carry-on and a backpack, you also must pay for food and seating, but that’s still not bad considering higher ticket prices to Iceland throughout the year.
Finding a rental car is your best bet when traveling to Iceland. There is a lot of driving involved but you really get to experience the road trip vibe by doing it this way. Another highlight of getting a rental vehicle is that you get to see each destination on your own time and at will. If you decide to change plans at the last minute (which I don’t advise) you’ll feel more at ease by traveling at your will and not of others.
When doing your research on types of cars to drive in Iceland, don’t feel pressured to get a 4×4. The roads are intense but if you are a good driver, you have nothing to worry about.
Picture resolution was a concern for me before leaving for Iceland however, the advantages of having an iPhone 7 Plus came in handy. All the pictures that you see throughout part one and part two of this blog post were taken on my phone (except for a few). But I also invested in an attachable lens that expanded the range of view for taking photos. The lens that I purchased was the Amir 3-in-1 photo lens kit by Amazon.
When it comes to packing for Iceland, keep in mind that the weather is very unpredictable in the warmer months. Being as though I went in February, the weather there is like that of the East Coast here in the U.S. Gloves, hats, winter boots, and a heavy windbreaker or vest is advised. A lot of walking was done during this trip, so I became extremely hot in my parka, but I am glad that I brought it along with me just in case.
- European outlet adaptors
- Phone/Car charger
- USB port Cord
- Flip flops
- Netflix/Hulu/Streaming account (local channels will not work)
- Mini Bluetooth music speaker (turn up purposes)
- Pain reliever
Overall, my trip to Iceland was all that I could hope for and more. Next time, I plan on staying much longer to experience more of what Iceland and the surrounding towns have to offer.
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