If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat (@kendrastreats), you know that I just got back from an amazing trip to Iceland! I’ve traveled quite a bit, but this was my first big solo trip and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous starting out. However, I was lucky enough to meet some new friends along the way and had one of the best vacations of my life!
I’ve been wanting to see the northern lights for a long time. I did some research regarding the best places and times to see them and decided on Iceland. Since there was no guarantee that I would see the lights anywhere due a number of factors – rain/snow, cloud cover, aurora activity, etc – I chose Iceland because of all the “other stuff” I would be able to see if the northern lights did not make an appearance. That turned out to be a great choice, because unfortunately they didn’t make an appearance the entire time I was there (9 days total!). Yes, it was a bummer! But I’ll just have to go somewhere else and try again sometime ;).
I flew into Reykjavik, which is the capital and largest city of Iceland. I did take a guided 6 day bus tour, but arrived a couple days early to explore the city on my own. The first day I toured the National Museum of Iceland and learned a lot about Icelandic history and culture. Then, I walked around the city and did some souvenir shopping.
The next day, I took the Reykjavik Food Walk through the city. (I’ll be writing an entire post on that later.) I’m obsessed with food tours since my first one in Amsterdam a few years ago (read about it here!), and now I take a food tour everywhere I go! So far, they’ve all been great and I was super excited about this one. It did not disappoint! I tried several typical Icelandic dishes like lamb stew, fish soup, skyr, rye bread ice cream, chocolate, lamb hot dogs, cheeses, horse meat(!), wild goose, and lamb. It was all delicious!
The next morning, I met up with the bus tour. It started with a tour of Reykjavik – the Harpa concert hall, Hallgrímskirkja church, the city lake, and the harbor area. Then, we made our way north to Akranes. There we visited a couple lighthouses and a folk museum. We traveled further north and saw Deildartunguhver (which is Europe’s most powerful hot spring), Reykholt (home of the famous Icelandic writer Snorri Sturluson), and the waterfalls at Hraunfoss and Barnafoss. Our hotel that night was in Borgarnes, which is away from the city and I was hoping to see the northern lights that night. A hotel worker checks every hour and if there is a sighting, will call your room and wake you up. I was so hoping for a phone call, but no such luck.
The next day, I went on a boat tour in Breidafjordur Bay. It was beautiful! I saw several of the little islands around the coast and even at raw scallops straight out of the ocean (aka viking sushi!). After the boat tour, we drove around the Snaefellsnes peninsula for views of glaciers, black sand beaches, and lava fields. Icelandic people are apparently obsessed with swimming and hot tubs, so that night I decided to try it out and got in the outdoor hot tub. It was actually really nice (except for the walk to the hot tub!). There are lots of hot springs in Iceland and they use the geothermal energy for heating their homes and water and hot tubs! We were still out of the city, and again, I was hoping for a northern lights wake up call, but it didn’t happen.
Next up was the Golden Circle tour. This is one of the most popular things to see/do in Iceland and it was definitely the most crowded. We visited the Gullfoss waterfall and geothermal geysir hot spring (which was impressive but nothing like Old Faithful if you’ve been to Yellowstone <– plug for traveling within the US =) ). Next, we traveled to Thingvellir National Park and walked between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates! You can literally walk between two continents. So neat! We stopped at a dairy farm and tasted traditional unpasteurized skyr, whey shots, and homemade ice cream. Yum, yum!! We ended the day with a horse show at Fakasel Horse Park. Icelandic horses are so pretty and so furry!
The last day of the guided tour started with a visit to Strandarkirkja, a small church believed to have special powers of luck/success. Then, we drove to Lake Kleifarratn and finished the day at the blue lagoon – which was breathtaking! The blue lagoon is a geothermal hot spring with silica mud that supposedly has healing powers and will make you look 10 years younger. I wasn’t brave enough to put it on my face, but maybe my arms and shoulders look 10 years younger, now?? haha Later that night, I went to a really great restaurant called 3 Frakkar with my new travel buddies. I tried more traditional Icelandic food like puffin, whale steak, Plokkfiskur (a cheesy fish and potato dish served with rye bread), and skyr brûlée (which was amazing!!).
I had scheduled some additional days after the guided tour and decided kind of last minute to take the Reykjavik Sightseeing South Coast and Glacier Walk Tour. I am so glad that I did, because it seriously so awesome! It was a bus tour down the south coast (which is really pretty). I got to see lots more Icelandic horses, a couple waterfalls at Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano (that erupted in 2010 and disrupted travel for most of Europe) and then spent about 3 hours walking on a glacier! It was seriously so exciting! I had to wear a helmet, clamp ons on my boots, and carry an ice pick. I even got to climb down in an ice tunnel. Definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip!
The last year has been rough(#completeunderstatement), and this trip was like a balm to my heart. I finally made it home 19 hours after I left my hotel, completely jet lagged but with a happy heart. Here’s to new adventures, new friends, and lots of laughter!