Chasing the Lights - Iceland
This past November, my mother and I took a girls’ trip to Iceland together and I could not have been happier with our choice of destination. Iceland is full of raw, natural beauty everywhere you turn. I couldn’t get enough of the landscape and the different types of terrain. Iceland has become quite popular over the last few years and I’ve heard all sorts of comments about it from the weather to the food selection not being good to being overpriced and I’m glad that I went to experience it for myself. First off, I was actually impressed with the food (and I’m a picky eater), and the prices were far less than I had anticipated. I live in New York City and I would say that prices are slightly less than what you would find in a large city in the U.S. Our trip was only for a long weekend, but I felt the 4 full days were long enough and we stayed in Reykjavik the entire time. If you plan on renting a car and traveling around the entire country then I would definitely allow yourself at least a full week, as there are so many different sites to see and getting lost is something Iceland is known for. Even when you get lost, you will find yourself surrounded by the beauty of the country.
Day 1: We landed at 6am in Iceland and went directly to the Blue Lagoon. We took a bus from the airport straight to the Blue Lagoon which you can book on the Blue Lagoon’s website. This bus trip also includes your ride from the Blue Lagoon to your hotel in Reykjavik. Stopping at the Blue Lagoon first thing in the morning is an amazing way to start your Iceland vacation as you’ll be very relaxed afterwards and it helps with any jet lag you might have if you’re like me and have a hard time sleeping on planes. There are different packages you can book at the Blue Lagoon but we chose the Comfort package which is their basic package. It comes with a mud mask that you get while you’re in the water and 1 free drink. We spent about 2 or 3 hours at the lagoon including shower time. There are all sorts of tips on their website and I highly recommend reading through them. I also recommend wearing your hair in a bun as the water makes it very stiff and stuck together. After the lagoon, we headed to Reykjavik to check into our hotel, Storm Hotel. I absolutely loved this hotel! It is situated in a great location that is steps from the shopping district, near lots of restaurants, and is across the street from one of the bus stops where all the tour buses pick up. Their breakfast has a wide variety of food, there is a bar for the evenings, and their hot chocolate is out of this world (picture below)! After checking in and getting settled, we explored Reykjavik and grabbed a bite for an early dinner at Seabaron on the water. The food was delicious and very affordable! We both got the lobster bisque (pictured below). After picking up some souvenirs, we layered up and got ready to chase the Northern Lights. Our first night was unsuccessful but we were determined to see them so we booked another tour with a different tour agency to try again later in our trip.
Day 2: We started our day bright and early with a Golden Circle Tour & glacier tour at 7am that also including snowmobiling! Our tour bus picked us up right outside of the hotel and we were on our way driving out of Reykjavik towards the Golden Circle. The first stop was Thingvellir National Park (top left image in grid below) where we walked between huge rocks and took in the distant mountain views. Next, we drove to the Geysir Hot Springs (bottom left image in grid below) where we ate lunch and watch the geysers shoot up into the air every few minutes. The last stop on the regular tour was Gullfoss Waterfall but is where we switched buses to go on our snowmobile excursion add-on. The new bus drove us down the road and then we went off the road onto a mountain that was covered in snow! We geared up and got on our snowmobiles and went all over the iceberg. It was one of the greatest, most thrilling experiences I’ve had and is a must-do activity while in Iceland! After driving around (which is much harder than it looks), we went back to the base camp to change and drive back to Gullfoss. Once we arrived back at Gullfoss, we bought a cup of hot cocoa and ventured down the stairs to see the magnificent and powerful waterfall (main image). This tour is an all day affair but worth every minute because you get to see all of the main landmarks and wonders of the Southern part of Iceland.
That night, after we cleaned up at the hotel, we at dinner near our hotel at Resto which was by far the best food we had on our trip! We did not make reservations but if I would recommend making one unless you don’t mind waiting a while. We had to come back later because the wait was so long but we were very glad that we ended up waiting!
Day 3: For our 3rd and final day, we had booked a tour of the Southeast side of the country including the black sand beach and the Glacier Lagoon, but it was canceled due to bad weather from a storm. Instead, we explored Reykjavik more and visited the Hallgrimskirkja church and Aurora, the Northern Lights Center. It was fascinating to learn how the Northern lights are created and what is required to see them. The employees there are extremely friendly and helpful and even helped us book our second Northern lights tour for that evening. Afterwards, we stopped by Baejarins Beztu Pylsur for the famous Icelandic hot dog which wasn’t too different than a typical American hot dog. We ended our last night in Iceland with a Northern lights tour by Sterna Travel who I recommend booking with. We booked the Northern Lights Deluxe tour which lasts 3-5 hours and includes pick up/drop off, an extremely clean mini bus with a max of 18 people, blankets (which come in handy because it gets pretty cold at night!), hot cocoa and a traditional doughnut, and an amazing tour guide. Sterna also offers a complimentary second chance to see the lights if you are unable to see them on your first tour. You can either schedule this for another night on your vacation or you can receive a voucher that you can use in the next 3 years of the date issued. This time around we were able to see the Northern lights which are not as bright as you would imagine but still an amazing sight to see and something that should be on everyone’s bucket list. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end our trip in Iceland and it was such a fun experience to have with my mom. I can’t wait to see where we go next!