Ever get the urge to travel to outer-space…more specifically Mars? @ElonMusk yes I’m talking to you, bro.
I have a solution for you, Elon. And I think you’re going to like it. It doesn’t include buying used rockets from Russia or launching Teslas into space because you can literally just hop on a plane and have pretty much the same experience with like half the effort.
Jokes aside, Iceland is out of this world and if you are a nature fanatic you’ll be smitten. It doesn’t even feel like you are on Earth anymore at times because some of the sights were just unreal. Think Lord of the Ring or Game of Thrones vibes. I’ll support my claims with substantial evidence in the form of pictures, do not fret my friends.
Logistical stuff: We landed in Reykjavik airport and decided to drive to the Blue Lagoon right away to rejuvenate after the long flight(I flew in from San Francisco so it was about a 9 hour flight). I think renting a car in Iceland is absolutely necessary since there are not many options for public transportation and I would relate the entire experience to an epic road trip with stunning sights everywhere you look. With that being said, it is a lot of driving; if I were to go back(and I am planning on doing this!) I would consider renting a camper van and ditching staying at hotels altogether. You have the option of literally just parking anywhere and sleeping.. don’t worry, Iceland is extremely safe and more often than not there are no other people around to bother you. The convenience of getting a van is that you do not need to go through the trouble of finding your hotel and then going back and forth to see sights like we did. It’s easier to keep with the momentum of your road-trip. If you aren’t about that van life, I suggest spending the extra money to get a jeep or a 4×4 because you are probably going to end up on dirt roads and rough terrain at some point during your time here.
This place is a force to be reckoned with and being there made me feel like a small insignificant human(in a good way). The wind has been known to cause car doors to fly off completely, just a warning for those of you who like to keep the door open to put on your layers or to take pictures. Going off tangent, being in nature forces you to feel like your everyday struggles are small because it is unpredictable. How does one prepare for the unpredictability of life? Proper planning. One minute you are chasing rainbows and the next you are driving through a hail storm. Just as you wouldn’t go to space without the right gear, going into Iceland unprepared could be quite dangerous.
Depending on the season you find yourself in, it is probably going to be cold with the exception of summer–when it is 24 hours of daylight, cool right? I would suggest visiting in the summer is you are a fan of long hikes because you can literally hike the entire day and it will still be daylight out. There were certain hikes which led to hot springs that I could not do at the time I was there because there weren’t enough hours of daylight and it would require camping out in the cold. This is not an issue you would be facing in the Summer. However, if you are adamant on catching a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis(I am coming back JUST for this) then you will find yourself there in either the fall or winter. Fair warning, it feels colder than New York even though temperature wise it might be the same(the wind is quite strong) and for my friends who keep up with me on social media, you know how much I complain about how cold NY is. In addition to this, bring waterproof clothing; extremely important, especially for those of you who are not fans of hypothermia(for you hypothermia fans, feel free to skip this part). You will also need a good pair of waterproof hiking boots or snow boots and layering will be your best buddy. I was pretty much in my snowboarding gear for most of my time here with the exception of when I would go into the hot springs. Yep, you heard correctly. There are natural hot springs here and they are the bomb dot com. The blue lagoon is included but it is man made(still super cool)…so don’t forget to bring a swimsuit, a quick dry towel, and flip flops. You do not want to get your boots wet(mine still smell like wet dog).
Now that we got the boring stuff out of the way, we can finally go over the amazing natural wonders that you can check out. Where do I even start? Let me include a map of Iceland and that might make things easier to understand. Most likely you will be coming from Southern Iceland and then either make your way east or west. The west fjords are a must see in my opinion, but then again, you will probably notice me saying everything is a must see because it is! Lol.
The amount of destinations you are able to visit not only depends on the duration of your trip but also on how much you like to linger/take your time or if you like to see it and move on right away to the next cool thing. I would say plan on being here for at least a week if you can if not two weeks. I wish I stayed longer. I was there for 5 days and it was definitely not enough and I am ashamed to say but I was speeding the entire time because we were the only ones on the road for miles. I still was not able to make it to the Northern part(which I heard from friends is where the coolest craters are). It is also the coldest part. The southern portion has numerous waterfalls whereas the Eastern part features glaciers and iceberg filled bodies of water. In the west, you’ll find the viking villages and the town of Vik. This is where you’ll see vast grassland and hills and sheep and black sand beaches. I am only giving an idea of how dramatically different each area is and how you can find yourself in a completely different landscape in such a short drive all on one island. The west fjords feature cliffs and ocean landscape like you’ve never seen before. The mountains had waterfalls that flowed straight into the ocean, my description does not do it justice. And as you are driving, you will find the most epic landscapes as you look to either the left or right. There were fields of moss that looked like you were in the film The Hobbit and then would find hilly red surfaces and made it feel like you were driving on Mars.
Attractions I recommend visiting:
- Kirkjufellsfoss: I made the mistake of booking accommodations here my first night and had to drive the southern part twice–which I didn’t mind–but it was unnecessary and time consuming. We did get a sick view of the famed mountain from our bedroom. For the accommodations, we opted for the Kirkjufell Guesthouse and lucked out since we got the front room with the most amazing view; they also have a kitchen and shared work area.
2. Southern part: The Golden Road
This portion is the most touristy and crowded in my opinion but for good reason. There are a plethora of sights to see on the south coast and most of them involve waterfalls! It is a lot to go over so I will list out the most memorable things I saw here and include photos 🙂
- Gullfoss Falls
- Solheimasandur airplane wreck
- Reynisfjara Beach
3. Vik and Black Sand Beaches
4. Eastern Coast: Features lots and lots of glaciers as well as a diamond beach.
- Fjallsárlón Glacial Lagoon
- Diamond Beach
- pretty much the entire thing…highly suggest you make as many stops as your heart desires, you won’t regret it. The road might seem to look the same the entire time but if you get out and walk a bit, you will find amazing glacial views like the one below.
5. Dynjandi: My favorite waterfall. Although getting there was quite tough due to the windy mountainous road, it was definitely worth it.
6. Tjoruhusid fish restaurant: The best fish buffet style.