Bright rainbows breaking through clouds, the rush of a waterfall around every corner, rolling green fields, and the nicest people you’ve ever met?
Sounds like heaven, but the name is Iceland.
I was lucky enough to visit this incredible country this past week- this time with my boyfriend for our three year anniversary. It was our first international trip together, and his first time outside of North America- something I’ve been wanting to experience with him since we started dating!
On our flight over, our captain woke the passengers to instruct us to look out the left side of the plane for the Northern Lights! We did see some tint of green, but not much.
Due to the weather, this would unfortunately be the only sighting we’d have the rest of our trip, but the views alone of this country and the adventures we went on more than made up for it! We spent the first full day exploring Reykjavik. The country’s capital and largest city, and it charmed us from the very start. Take a look at some of the city’s gems:
We saw the Sun Voyager, a striking steel sculpture along the water.
Harpa, a concert hall near the harbor where we saw an awesome exhibit.
Hallgrímskirkja, an immense church that boasts outstanding panoramic views of the entire city.
Perlan, a glass dome rotating restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious dessert after a long day of hiking.
Lake Tjörnin, Ráðhús Reykjavíkur (City Hall), Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat, etc.
As much as we adored the city, we loved the countryside even more. We couldn’t pass up one of the most famous routes out of Reykjavik- the Golden Circle- featuring Þingvellir National Park, Haukadalur geothermal area (Geysir, Strokkur), and Gullfoss waterfall.
Gullfoss waterfall– This double-tiered waterfall reminded me at first of Niagra Falls, but I loved how close we could get to it! Not to mention the way the sun reflected off the water- the rainbow was a gorgeous payoff for the long climb and the downpour of rain we got caught in!
Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park– the site of two tectonic plates (American and Eurasian) that drift apart at a speed of 2 cm/year, and also the site of Althingi, the oldest functioning parliament in the world. We couldn’t get enough of the history and autumn colors here.
Haukadalur geothermal area (Geysir, Strokkur, etc.)
Bright blue bubbling pools, hot springs, and mud pots, this place was a delight to see! Although the sulfur smelled like rotten eggs, you forget all about it with the excitement of seeing Strokkur explode every 5-10 minutes.
We made a stop at Fákasel Horse farm to see the famous Icelandic horses. They are all pure bred- once an Icelandic horse leaves the country it cannot ever return, and no horses can be imported. They also have five gaits instead of four, making them very unique.
We didn’t think we could top the Golden Circle, but we were proven wrong during our exploration of Iceland’s South Coast shores: Skógafoss waterfall, Reynisfjara’s black sand beaches, Sólheimajökull glacier, Eyjafjallajökull volcano, and Seljalandsfoss waterfall, among others.
Skógafoss– We were able to climb to the very top of this powerful waterfall. (Look to the top right of the photo- that’s where we were!) The slippery steps led us to an unbelievable view looking down below.
Black sand beaches of Reynisfjara– This world famous beach was like nothing we had ever seen before! Gray pebbles, dark sand, basalt sea stacks, rocky pyramids towering over us. The impressively strong, high waves crashing into the shore and gusts of wind were scary and wonderful all wrapped into one spectacular visit.
Sólheimajökull glacier- This glacier emerged right as we rounded the bend after a 10-15 minute hike. It completely took our breath away- it was the first time either of us had ever seen a glacier in real life! We learned it covers Katla, a dangerous volcano that is threatening to erupt in the near future. (Which we were glad we missed.)
Eyjafjallajökull – You can’t see the glacier here in this photo below, but the left photo is the volcano that erupted in 2010 and stopped air traffic throughout all of Europe. The photo on the right is a massive rock in which houses have been built into. It’s been called the “elf house.” Many Icelandic people believe in elves. We weren’t convinced, but it is ironic that after we took this photo, our camera stopped working…
Seljalandsfoss– By far one of our most favorite destinations. This magnificent waterfall has a path that leads you BEHIND it, so you can actually walk to the other side for an even more stunning view. But beware: you absolutely will get soaked to the core. Definitely worth it!
So okay, you get it. We saw some extraordinary things in nature and played under a lot of waterfalls. But what did we eat?
Pylsa– Iceland is known for their hot dogs, and I certainly had my fair share of them. Not joking, I could really go for another one as we speak! The picture on the right is at Bæjarins Bestu, which proudly displays a picture of Bill Clinton enjoying his meal. If you order one with everything on it (which I recommend), it includes raw onions, crispy fried onions, ketchup, special Icelandic mustard, and remoulade.
Don’t believe me about how AMAZING and renowned they are? Check it here.
Flatbrauð- rye bread with smoked lamb & Malt drink (non-alcoholic, typically mixed with orange soda for holidays)
Skyr– A thick yogurt that was very filling.
Several different soups to help warm up on colder nights:
Traditional Icelandic Meat Soup.
Turnip soup- never had a turnip in my LIFE but this was delicious!
And, of course, who could forget FISH?
The best fish either of us had ever tried at the Drunk Rabbit.
Chuck Norris Grill– we couldn’t stop laughing at all of these sayings!
Dillon Whiskey Bar– Sampled some Balvenie (aged 12 years) here that I loved!
Drinks- Icelandic Pale Ale & White Ale, Viking, Thule, Egils Gull beer, Somersby cider. etc. We tried it all but the Black Death, Brennivín.
Blue Lagoon– How could we come to Iceland and not visit one of the 25 wonders of the world? On our last day, we spent a full day here relaxing and literally soaking it all in. With blue water the temperature of 100° F, a swim up bar, and silica mud masks that left your skin feeling 10 years younger, there was no better way for us to wrap up our romantic, fascinating, and completely breathtaking vacation.
We could not have asked for a more beautiful adventure, and already can’t wait to go back. Iceland captured our hearts from the beginning, but if you’ve read this post, it’s not hard to see why.