Let's Travel To....ICELAND

Thingvellir National Park

If I could describe Iceland with one word it would be DREAMLIKE. I've traveled and I've appreciated everything I’ve been lucky enough to see but, for me, Iceland was on a different level of beautiful. It was here where I truly understood just how important it is to travel and see things with your own two eyes. It’s funny because I always think "This is it. This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!” As I continue to travel, I’m sure new places will have that same effect but for now, Iceland holds that title.

Iceland was only a part of our month long Europe trip because Madrid was super expensive to fly out of and Iceland was 1/3 of the price. We figured we would be spending the extra money on a flight regardless, why not use that money to spend a couple of days in Iceland instead? We maximized our time by buying the earliest (and cheapest) flight out of Madrid and arrived in Iceland at about 10:00 am. We rented a car for 2 days, which allowed us to be our own tour guides and follow our own itinerary to do things on our own schedule.

Side note: Nick and I travel super light with just a carry-on in order to avoid having to wait for our luggage. But really, it's also so we avoid bag check-in charges (hey, anywhere we can save we'll take it!) Needless to say, we did NOT pack weather appropriate clothing for Iceland. Once we got our rental car, we layered on the clothes as much as possible and believe me when I say it was NOT enough.

Day 1: Golden Circle + Blue Lagoon

We started the tour of the Golden circle with Thingvellir National Park. Per their website, "No single place epitomizes the history of Iceland and the Icelandic nation better than Þingvellir." It is beyond fascinating knowing that a layer of ice as thick as 1000 meters once covered the land. 

There are two campsites at the park, multiple hiking trails, a church, horseback riding, and even diving if you have the required equipment. If you are driving, you can purchase a parking day pass near the visitor center for about 750ISK; you just need to enter your license plate number and you'll be all set. The park was beautiful and we were able to spend about 1 hour and a half here before heading to our next destination

Next we headed to check out the very active Geyser Hot Springs Area. Let it be known that this area smells like rotten eggs! So in other words, a sneak peak into my life whenever Nick has ricotta cheese, if you catch my drift (ha!) The most active geyser in the area is called Strokkur. It gushes out hot water as high as 30 meters into the air about every 5-10 minutes, with some eruptions being higher than others. Be very careful- the water is boiling and they have numerous signs advising visitors not to touch the water.

This site is completely free; no entrance or parking fee. It was a quick stop and we spent about 30 minutes here so we can capture the geyser eruption several times (in slow-mo for Nick's video).

We then headed to Gullfoss and as we walked out of the car, I was so cold and even thought to myself, "I'll just go take a quick picture and run back." Little did I know I was about to witness a truly gorgeous Mother Nature creation! Believe me, you will never understand just how incredible it is unless you are standing right in front of it.

Avoid wearing glasses. Trust me.

Next on the list was Kerid which was created 6,500 years ago! That, itself, was mind blowing to me. Scientist belief that it was once a cone-shaped volcano that erupted and exhausted its magma reserve, ultimately causing the foundation to fall in on itself resulting in this crater.

It cost about $3.50 USD to visit. You can admire the crater from the top or walk the trail down to the water. It was so stunning and I would’ve sat at the top for longer if I wasn’t freezing my buns off.

After our last stop we checked-in to our private room at the Vibrant Hostel. I have mixed feelings of whether I would recommend this hostel. The hostel itself was clean and it had everything we needed: it was walking distance to the market, fast food joints, and the flyBus stop. However, that’s all there was within walking distance. I only think it was perfect for us because it helped us save money and we had a rental car to get around. Otherwise, I would suggest staying in Reijkavik where you can conveniently explore the little town and can access tours much easier.

Blue Lagoon was last on the agenda for the day. The more popular times to visit the lagoon are between 11am and 2pm. Make sure you reserve your tickets at least 2-3 weeks in advance just to be safe because they only release a certain amount of tickets per hour. This is a very popular tourist attraction and tickets for peak hours are on high demand and the priciest. In general, I think a visit to the lagoon is an expensive one. We opted for one of the latest hours, reserving tickets for the 10pm slot. With your ticket, you are provided a towel, access to the showers, and a drink of choice (alcoholic or not). In the lagoon there is also a booth where you stop by to get a complimentary mask to wear for about 20 minutes and you can wash it off INSIDE the lagoon! I can’t compare my visit to any other time slots available but I will say I felt like we picked a perfect time. It’s Iceland so the sun never really sets which meant we had plenty of daylight and the crowd was very small.

View from the road

Enjoying complementary bubbly

Living my best life 

So, Guide to Iceland Tour costs about $147 USD per person and it's an 11 hour tour of Golden Circle, Geysir, Kerid, Gullfoss, Pingvellir, and Hveragerðir. The tour includes a stop to Blue Lagoon BUT it does not include entrance. At the lagoon, the tour spends about 2 hours there and that's about $96 USD per person. Total spent is about $476 for 2 people. 

This is what Nick and I did instead: $100 per day car rental + $7.50 parking at Gullfoss + $8 for entrance to Kerid Crater + $50 gas + $192 for Blue Lagoon entrance. Total spent was $357 for 2 people. While it might seem like a small savings, we were able to travel at our own pace, stop for pictures (and snacks) whenever we wanted, and never felt rushed. 

If you REALLY want to save money, find the natural hot springs. They're free, less crowded, and probably more beautiful. Make sure to really do your research on these though. The water can be too hot at times.

Day 2: Reynisfjara + Skogafoss 

After making breakfast at our hostel, we jumped in the car, stopped to get some snacks, and hit the road. We were headed on a 2-hour long drive to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Reynisfjara is a beach near a volcano that is under ice! The black sand was formed when the volcano was still active. The lava made its way to the beach and cooled down when it came in contact with the icy seawater, which eventually broke apart. This place is extremely picturesque! I almost wish I was wearing a nice long, flowy, red dress because that would’ve looked great against the black sand. I also read that a scene from Star Wars was filmed here. Any Star Wars junkies recognize it?

From here, we took a 10 minute drive to Skogafoss. Also free, also breathtaking!

Last stop was Reijkavik. You want to stay here if you're not planning on renting a car since it's close to the airport and a cute town.

I can't stress enough how amazing Iceland is, despite spending about $30 USD on 2 Crunchwraps at Taco Bell, cause yea, it's expensive!! Yet so beyond worth every penny, let me tell you!


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