Travel Guide: Iceland6:01 PM
All About Iceland:
where the land is not actually covered in ice
A lot of people have asked me, "Why Iceland"? My answer has always been, "because I want to go see the Northern Lights." In addition to seeing the Northern Lights (which I am very lucky I was able to see and capture), I also got to see some of the world's coolest phenomenons first hand. Read on for more details!
THINGS TO DO & SEE
- In the winter, go somewhere away from the city lights to find the Northern Lights at night.
- As mentioned above, seeing the Northern Lights was one of the main reasons for my trip to Iceland. You can use this site to check the forecast every night.
- I went on a Northern Lights Mystery Tour with Gray Line and was super lucky to be able to see them on our first night there, and capture such amazing photos!
- I also wrote up a blog post about how to capture the Lights for those who are just like me (aka not camera savvy).
- Head down south through farmlands (if you're lucky, you'll see horses/sheep/cows) with views of Iceland's many volcanoes and glaciers, black sand beaches and waterfalls.
- I went on a South Coast, Waterfalls and Glacier Hike Tour with Gray Line.
- Things we saw:
- Go visit one of the most historical sites in Iceland, known as the Golden Circle.
- I went on the Golden Circle Classic Tour with Gray Line.
- Things we did on this tour:
- Visit the most beautiful waterfall yet, the Gullfoss Waterfall - absolutely stunning with the white snow on the ground!
- Witness the phenomenon at the Geysir geothermal area
- The Strokkur geyser is the only one active in Iceland at the moment and it shoots out water every 10 minutes!
- Visit the Skálholt Church and learn about their Medieval history
- Walk through Thingvellir National Park, in the spot where you get to walk in-between the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates
- If you're up for an adventure, you can snorkel down the Silfra fissure in Þingvellir National Park in between the two tectonic plates!
- In downtown Reykjavík, go visit the Hallgrímskirkja, the tallest church in Iceland ⛪️
- This church was designed to resemble the lava flows of Iceland's landscape.
- Go up the church during sunset to get a beautiful sunset view over the city.
- It's not a trip to Iceland if you don't spend a day relaxing at the Blue Lagoon!
- Read below for some tips relating to the Blue Lagoon, so you can have the best experience there!
- Visit the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, on the east coast
- It takes about 4.5 hours to drive there, without consideration of snowstorms, so this is not a day trip.
- I did not have a chance to visit Jökulsárlón but the pictures look phenomenal. I would highly recommend you go visit with Gray Line, if you have the chance.
- Head to where the "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" started, at the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
- It is said that the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is like a mini version of the entire country.
- They have their waterfalls, black sand beaches, beautiful mountains and volcanic craters.
- I went on a tour with Reykjavik Excursions, The Wonders of Snæfellsnes
- Things we saw:
WHAT TO EAT
- Go for a tasting menu at a restaurant.
- It's an awesome way to get a taste on a variety of dishes of the Icelandic cuisine. One that I would recommend is KOPAR.
- If I'm completely honest, I'm a little biased as I met the chef back in Toronto during Taste of Iceland, but I also wouldn't recommend something that I didn't truly believe in!
- I can't stress that enough. Seafood in Iceland is unbelievable.
- I would recommend ordering the 'fish of the day' at restaurants you go to, like when I went to AALTO Bistro.
- I also had sushi from Sushi Samba, and it was absolutely fantastic.
- A delicacy in Iceland is eating a little piece of petrified shark, and washing it down with a shot of Brennivín.
- I got a chance to try it when I dined at Lækjarbrekka, through my Icelandic menu tasting. It was very interesting, to say the least ._. I am not too sure I'd ever do it again, to be honest lol!
- Although this can be classified under 'seafood', this deserves it's own mention.
- I absolutely loveeee langoustine, especially when paired with lamb. It is very popular in the Icelandic cuisine so be sure to give it a try if you see it on the menu!
INFORMATION / TIPS
- "Winter" doesn't mean there is no sun light, and that it is pitch black all day.
- During the days that I went, we had an average of "6 hours of sunlight", according to the weather sites online.
- However, when I was there, I did not notice the lack of sunlight at all!
- Although the sun did rise a little later (around 10), daylight does start creeping up over the horizon way earlier than that.
- Rent a car, if you are comfortable with driving!
- Iceland is easily accessible by a car, and it is definitely a cheaper option than going on day tours.
- If you decide to go with tour companies (like I did) instead of driving, note that all tour companies will pick you up and drop you back off at your hotel! It's super convenient and I loved that service.
- If you're going in the winter (November to February), dress warm and layer up!
- Although the weather may say it is a 'nice' day, it is very windy (especially if you are by the water).
- Heat packs saved my life.
- Keep in mind that food is expensive there.
- Too bad you can't do anything about that! Just keep an open mind when it comes to looking at prices.
- If you're staying somewhere with a kitchen, you can find the closest Bónus supermarket to you (cheap groceries!) and make your own lunch/dinner.
- In addition to food being expensive, so is alcohol.
- You all know I love my alcohol hehe so a big tip to all of you is to purchase your alcohol at Duty Free on your way to Iceland or at the airport when you reach Iceland.
- Locals in Iceland tend to pre-drink as the tax in bars for alcoholic drinks can be up to 50%! So do as the locals do,and save a couple bucks.
- The Blue Lagoon
- Bring your own towel.
- You have to pay for towels there, and why add that as an expense when you can easily bring your own.
- I would also bring multiple ones in case you go on a rainy day (like me) and it is freezing cold!
- Don't forget to also bring your own sandals/flip flops.
- Use the 'indoor lagoon' to get outside.
- Past the lockers, in the waiting area, there is a small 'indoor lagoon'.
- At the back left corner, there is a door leading out to the actual outdoor lagoon.
- If you are unlucky and experience crazy weather like I did, I highly recommend using that door to go outside as opposed to running out on the deck in the cold.
- For the ladies, the silica and sulfur in the water will really dry your hair. Be sure to put a handful of conditioner in your hair before you go into the water. I'd suggest slathering it all over your hair, and then tying it up in a bun.
- Don't forget to visit the mask house at the back of the lagoon for your free Silica Mud Mask experience!
- Visit the sauna and steam rooms when you start feeling prune-y haha it'll be a good warm break for your skin.
- As the Blue Lagoon is close to the Keflavik Airport, it is recommended to go visit the lagoon on a day you are leaving/arriving from the airport. That way, it will save you time and a bus trip!
- Don't fret if you don't see the Northern Lights on the day you book the tour.
- Most tour companies will let you re-book for free to go on another tour (assuming there is space) until you see them!
- I will continue to add more tips as I think of them. If you've been and you have some you think would be useful for travelers, please let me know!!