ICELAND!!!! This post has been so fun to write. The word magical does no justice to how amazing Iceland really is. I feel like Iceland photos have been popping up all over my Facebook newsfeed really in just the last year. Everyone I know has gone or is planning to go to Iceland and rightfully so! Alright, if you are new to this series, Man Candy and I recently went on a 16 day trip to Scandinavia. You can read our first part of the trip to Norway HERE and the second part of the trip to Copenhagen HERE.
Mark and I again, got really lucky with weather. While it was a bit chilly we some how managed to dodge any kind of precipitation. It was even clear enough one night to see The Northern Lights, which was on both Mark’s and my bucket lists. Before the trip we were both kind of bummed at the timing because all of the Aurora Borealis articles we read said the best time to see the NL in Iceland were Sept – March and we’d be hitting it at the end of August. Turns out…we went at JUST the right time! We watched the forecast pretty close and at a 3 out of 9 on the scale with clear skies, we made the call at 11:30 PM that we had to try! Mark and I drove about 20 miles outside of Reykjavik, found a field, and laid there for about an hour just watching the sky dance. Talk about romantic. That experience alone makes me want to go back again for sure!
Okay- let’s dive deeper into all of the deets about our stay in Iceland!
<<< What We Did >>>
I want to reiterate that we were only in Iceland for 3 nights and 2 full days. It was just enough time to do the Golden Circle and drive south to Vik, but not much else. There is still so much we feel like we didn’t get to see due to time constraints! At first we wanted to fit so much into the two days and then took two steps back and realized we’d literally be driving ALL DAY and spending very little time at each place if we did that! While everything is rather close to Reykjavik, it still takes time to drive from place to place and no matter what, you have to account for weather (even though we got lucky!).
The Blue Lagoon
Visiting The Blue Lagoon is an absolute no brainer if you travel to Iceland. It’s one of the most iconic Icelandic tourist attractions and geothermal spas in the world. Mark and I made an 8:30AM appointment and spent about 2 full hours hanging out in the hot spring. We got the “comfort” package which is around $60 USD and comes with a mud mask, a towel, a drink, an algae mask, and use of the locker rooms. I got a Blueberry Skyr Smoothie and Mark got a beer (true Wisconsinite drinking a beer at 9AM). It was perfect! I wish I had a geothermal spa in my backyard. It really does wonders for your skin (I can tell the dead skin on my toes started to peel off…TMI? Sorry, I workout!). It was nice to just relax for a few hours after a crazy week and a half of traveling in Norway and Copenhagen. Mark and I decided we weren’t going to eat or buy anything at The Blue Lagoon because everything is very overpriced. Twas a good call!
I actually ended up changing my 12:30PM appointment to much earlier after speaking with Davida about her experience. She was right, it was crazy packed! We even had to wait like 20 minutes to get in. If we could do this all over again I would 100% suggest going right after you land in Reykjavik or right before you fly out. It’s very close to the airport and in a different direction than all other attractions you’re going to want to see. Keep that in mind when booking.
Vik and Black Sand Beach
Vik was about a 2 hour (beautiful) drive from Reykjavik. On top of being really excited to see the Black Sand Beach we really enjoyed the drive to and from. The topography along the southwestern coast is just epic…we’re talking waterfalls, and glaciers, and volcanoes, and ocean, and streams, etc! For some reason I was expecting Vik to be an actual town slash city. Turns out it has a total of 291 inhabitants. El oh el. Really the only thing we did in Vik was walk around the beach for about 45 minutes and have some lunch! There were quite a bit of tourists there, but like true Fit Foodies we got out of our car and walked quite a ways to the beach.
If we were to do Iceland over again. We would stay in Vik for a night or two so that we could explore the Katla Volcano and do a glacier hike. You wouldn’t think so, but the volcano is actually covered with glaciers! That’s one of the reasons why Iceland is so unique. Anyways, this came highly recommended by many blogs we read, but we just didn’t hae the time.
PS: Mark and I were in Vik 2 days after 2 earthquakes happened at the Katla Volcano (on August 29th), which is right outside Vik. Good thing for us, there were no aftershocks and no one seemed too nervous. I really was thinking about the end of time for a split second, there.
If you are planning to drive to Vik from Reykjavik, YOU MUST STOP AT THIS WATERFALL! It’s about 30 minutes north on HWY 1 and…FREE! Like most other stops in Iceland, this one was quick. Mark insisted on walking behind the waterfall (bc the guy LOVES waterfalls), but I wanted to photograph nature and NOT get wet. Best of both worlds! We enjoyed this stop for no more than 30 minutes and even picked up a homemade peanut butter cookie at a cute little stand.
Reykjadalur Hot Springs Hike
Ohhhh the hot spring hike. I am SO HAPPY Davida suggested this hike because it was by far my favorite excursion out of everything we did in Iceland. After lots of driving (re: to Vik and Golden Circle) all I wanted was to move my body. This was the perfect hike. It was 6k round trip and quite honestly the most perfect hike. After you hike a mile and a half up a mountain you end at the most epic all natural hot spring- Reykjadalur. What I really liked about this was the fact that it wasn’t so dang crowded. The minute you tell a tourist they have to get off their bus and hike a mountain is the same minute they say NOPE.
Mark and I really really really enjoyed this. We wish had a bottle of wine or a few beers, but now we know for next time! Again we got lucky with weather and got to experience the sunset on the way down, it was perfect! Pro tip: make sure you pack water, towels, a bag for your wet swim suit, and a change of clothes for on the way down! Oh, and you’ll for sure want a camera for this one.
<<< The Golden Circle >>>
This is an obvious must-do if you travel to Iceland. What is the Golden Circle you ask? It’s a ring of popular tourist attractions around 150 miles long starting at Reykjavik going East. It’s the perfect route to take if you just have a few days. Mark and I turned to Google which lead us to The Blonde Abroad’s review of Iceland’s Golden Circle and we pretty much followed her route minus a few stops that we skipped. We started in Reykjavik and went south, hitting Kerio Crater –> Geysir –> Gullfoss
I don’t know about you but I’m just fascinated by craters. Kerid Crater is a volcanic lake and was a cheap and quick stop along the Golden Circle. We walked the entire perimeter and enjoyed some time outside before hopping back in the car. One thing to note- it can be SUPER windy around this thing, so just beware!
This is one of Iceland’s most famous geysers, erupting every 6-10 minutes. It was a really cool thing to see but JAM PACKED people tourist. We didn’t really stay very long because once we saw it erupt a few times, that was that. There were a few restaurants at this stop and a tourist shop that we walked around in. We grabbed a few overpriced snacks and were off!
This was one of my favorite landmarks to see in Iceland! Gullfoss Waterfall is fed by a glacier and a magnificent site to see! We got to experience a double rainbow, which was epic (minus the wind). I think I enjoyed this attraction so much because you actually had to walk quite a bit and go down some stairs, so there were much less people! You also got wet- so if you didn’t have a rain jacket on it probably wasn’t fun for yo.
I wanted to make a quick note that we did all of the above AFTER stopping at the Blue Lagoon. We were gone from about noon until 7PM! If we were to do this over again, we would have left much earlier at like 8AM so we could have enjoyed time at The Thingvellir National Park, which is just east of Reykjavik. We were really hoping for a 3-5 mile hike, but were just too tired by the time we were driving by!
<<< Where We Stayed >>>
Disclaimer: Hilton Hotels sponsored our stay at Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. All opinions are my own.
Image via Priceline
Mark and I couldn’t have had a better experience at Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. With only 3 nights and 2 full days in Iceland, we needed a reliable, centrally-located place to stay and The Hilton was absolutely perfect. It’s located just outside of downtown Reykjavik and about 20 minutes from the airport. From check-in to check-out everything was a breeze! Mark and I stayed in an Executive Room, which was just perfect. It faced the ocean and gave us access to the Executive Lounge, which was marvelous. Instead of having to deal with finding food in the morning, we were able to get up, grab some coffee and a quick breakfast and peace out for the day. When we got home at night, we were able to pop in for a drink and an app before heading out for dinner.
That Executive Lounge really was key to a successful day :P
FITNESS FACILITY and SPA
Our room also came with access to Hilton’s amazing fitness facility. Mark and I made it in for a workout one night and had the whole place to ourselves. I’m not even kidding this fitness center slash gym was state of the art! There was anything and everything you could image in a gym (even a row machine)! I, of course, did a Sweat Series workout —> this one to be exact.
The last night in Reykjavik we found ourselves absolutely craving the hot tub. We walked into the spa area and the attendant told us that with our Executive Room status, our rooms came with a 5 minute neck/head massage. OH MY GAAHHHH. That literally made our night. I wish we were there for one more night so I could have gotten a full 60 minute. I needed that after so much travel.
<<< Travel >>>
Iceland was never really on our radar until we started looking for flights from The States to Norway. Iceland Air offers an amazing opportunity to extend your layover and stay in Iceland for up to 7 days at no cost. They call it a Stopover. The best part is flying From Chicago through Reykjavik to Norway really is the fastest travel time (unless you can get a direct flight). Anyways, once we figured this out…adding Iceland to our itinerary was a no brainer. Plus, The Healthy Maven and Table For Two had just gone so I knew we’d have resources! Okay, so our experience with Iceland Air was just so-so. We didn’t have any problems on our flight from Chicago to Bergen (with a brief layover in Reykjavik) minus leaving almost an hour late. It was our flight from Bergen to Reykjavik on our way to our 3 night stopover. We booked a nonstop (so we thought) flight from Bergen to Reykjavik, which ended up being an 8 hour travel day due it it really being a one-stop flight. After convincing myself I effed it up and accidentally booked a one-stop, we talked with other people on our flight that too thought it was a direct flight. Turns out Iceland Air promotes this flight as a direct flight, but it never was. We didn’t even think twice about this when booking because we didn’t factor in the 2 hour time change that happens between Bergen and Reykjavik. Long story longer, this was probably the worst experience we had all trip, which in the grand scheme of things wasn’t bad at all. When we could have easily had a 3 hour travel day, it was 8 because of the one-stop and layover!
Hertz Rental Cars
The one thing Davida kept saying to me is MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A RELIABLE CAR, so booking that is one of the first things we did. WOW ARE CAR RENTALS IN ICELAND EXPENSIVE…especially if you need an automatic! We were very happy with our experience at Hertz Iceland. We got ourselves a Rav4. The service was really easy and quick when we got of the plane…the same thing with returning it! The total for 3 days after all of the fees and insurance add-ons was just over $600 and that’s with a 25% discount. Holy expensive.
<<< Iceland Travel Tips >>>
- Snacks: If you can, pack as many snacks as you can in your luggage. Food is really expensive, especially if you want to purchase at any of the tourist destinations.
- International Cellular Plan: While GPS isn’t 100% necessary it’s 100% a really nice thing to have :P We were really grateful to partner with Verizon during our trip to Iceland and have access to their Travel Pass. I highly recommend looking into that before your trip.
- Pack Warm! You never know what kind of weather you are going to get in Iceland. Make sure you pack layers and FOR SURE a rain jacket. Check out what I packed – – here.
- Do your research! Not going to lie, we left it to the last minute to plan out exactly what our 2 days were going to look like in Iceland. Make sure you know exactly where you want to go and how to get there! It will make your trip to Iceland stress free.
- CASH vs. CARD: We got away with only using our credit cards, which was really nice.