On July 31st, I received an email with the subject line, “thanksgiving in iceland?”. The body of the email had a link to a travel deal followed by, “I’m so serious.” After reading the brief email on my iPhone I immediately responded, “That sounds perfect to me.” And just that easily our trip to Iceland was born.
Prior to this email from my BFF, I must admit, I had never thought much about traveling to Iceland though I would like to visit every country in the world, so agreeing to join her was an easy decision. In the months that followed, we both purchased our travel packages through Iceland Air, which has amazing deals that generally include flight, hotel, a tour package and in my case, breakfast. I am not one to book tours when I travel, but in Iceland I highly recommend it.
So let’s get down to it. Firstly, Iceland is not super cold, contrary to popular belief. Somewhere along the country naming lines, there was a mix up. Reykjavik, Iceland (the capital and where majority of the population lives) boasts a higher average temperature at a range of -3 C to 14 C (26.6 F to 57.2 F) than its more icey and un-aptly named neighbor Greenland, the capital of which, Nuuk, boasts average temperatures of -11 C to 11C (12.2 F to 51.8). So in fact Iceland is more green than ice and Greenland is more ice than green. The week leading up to my travels, it was actually slightly colder in Rome than in Reykjavik and Detroit was significantly colder before and during my time in Reykjavik.
Because of the amount of time that it took me to get to Reykjavik from Rome, 12 hours door to door, I only had two and a half days in Iceland which was really too short, but I was able to pack some interesting things in.
Thursday night after checking into the quaint and basic Hotel Leifur Eiriksson I met my friends for dinner at a restaurant called Snaps, which was a recommendation that they received from a local. The food was amazing. I had a beef steak, Alicia had a lamb steak and Keondra had the fish of the day. We all tasted everything and it was all good. The prices gave a bit of sticker shock and the $8 shot of hot wine was a bit of a disappointment, but overall the meal was very satisfying.
Following dinner we went to a bar called Dolly and quickly made friends with the bartender who let us taste the wide variety of Icelandic alcohol. Several of them are made from the same ingredients as Icelandic liquorice which was not very appealing to me and the vodka tasted like gin. During our stint at the bar, Keondra and I ran off to the hot dog stand, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, that they tried on the previous day and it was a delicious snack that we brought back to the bar and smashed.
On Friday, I joined a glacier walk and northern lights tour with Keondra. It was scheduled to be a 12 hour day and I paid a hefty price tag of €183. The walk was absolutely amazing and we also had a great tour guide who told us not only about the history of Iceland but also about several cultural traditions. I am not one to engage in many outdoor activities in winter, but with lots of layers and borrowed hiking boots and waterproof pants, I was glacier ready. We stayed on the glacier for about an hour and a half, making it down just in time for sunset. Following the walk we were all quite exhausted, but were taken to a museum of Icelandic history, followed by dinner which was composed of a delicious and traditional meat soup. Very basic, but very good. On our way back to the city we stopped to see the Seljalandsfoss waterfall which was lit with fog lights. An interesting fact: 80% of the country’s energy comes from thermal energy. I wasn’t able to get a good picture of the waterfall, but it was a wonderful site to see.
On Saturday, Alicia and I woke up early and headed to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa of sorts. There are several packages that you can get, but if you plan on staying for a short period of time (less than two hours), I suggest you go with the Standard package at €33. I paid €58 for the Comfort package but it wasn’t really worth the extra things that I received. While our evening at the Lagoon should’ve finished with a viewing of the northern lights, that did not happen because of the heavy cloud coverage. I guess I will have to try again on another trip to the Artic portion of the world.
The spa was a nice, but interesting experience. Imagine standing in your swimsuit in freezing temperatures, longer than you have to because you want to snap pictures of the beautiful scenery. Once you hop in the water which is about 30 C or 85 F you regain feeling in all parts of your body, but I must say I think I got frostbite on the bottom of my feet in the five seconds that it took for me to run from where I hung my robe to the Lagoon. Being in the water was very relaxing, but because it is about two and a half feet deep you duck walk during most of the time for fear of standing up and exposing your body to the freezing temps. Your face is unguarded from the harsh winds, but the free silica mud masks were helpful. There is also a bar in the water where you can get fruit smoothies, sparkling wine and more.
Saturday afternoon I walked around the city and went to the flea market in search of an Icelandic wool sweater that wouldn’t set me back $200. I was successful! I finished the night at Icelandic Fish and Chips near the harbor. I had the polluck and was not disappointed. The fish coupled with garlic topped potatoes and an Icelandic beer was the perfect meal.
Overall I had an awesome experience in Iceland and I highly recommend a visit, especially if you are an outdoorsy person. I fully intend to return for a longer time. I would say that four full days would be the minimum I would suggest. Feel free to peruse my Instagram for more photos and let me know if you plan to head to Iceland!