I’ve technically been to Iceland a handful of times, thanks to the low fares of IcelandAir, but I’ve never left the airport. The ground outside looked a bit like I imagine the moon would look if it had a few hundred folks living on it. Many friends have visited, and all have raved about it. This summer I finally got to bust out of the Reykjavik airport thanks to the suggestion that my sister, her partner, Austin and I all go together after they visited us in London.
There are a few airlines that fly to Reykjavik, but let’s be real. If you’re going, you’re going on Iceland Air. And that’s just fine. It’s a budget airline, but not horrifying like Ryanair. Both our flights we just fine.
We decided to stay outside of Reykjavik, in the town of Hveragerði. The thinking was we didn’t want to be in the big city, but we did want to be along the Golden Circle (more on that later). My sister found a cute little guest house — we got the code for the front door and our rooms via email, and just let ourselves in. The rooms had fine bathrooms, very comfortable beds, a desk and small fridge. We were a two minute walk from the restaurants in town, as well as near some nature trails.
Food and Drink
Iceland is expensive — there’s just no way around it. That said, we were generally able to eat good food without spending all the money. We did eat every meal out, but that’s a bit of stretch. Each of the three mornings we were there, we went to the local bakery and got some Icelandic yogurt (skry – SO GOOD) and a pastry, and then would buy a sandwich to eat later for lunch. Then for dinner, we’d get something local.
Our first night we ate at a restaurant that uses the geothermal energy in the area to cook the food, and one of us ate horse goulash.
Our second night we were in Reykjavik, and thanks to my sister’s research we stumbled upon the Iclandic Street Food restaurant, which happened to be celebrating their one-year anniversary. There were balloons, and cake (so much free cake). They only have three items on the menu, but we each found something we wanted, and ate our food in the bar next door (same owner), as we were entertained by a live saxophonist playing along with 80s hits.
It was amazing.
On our last night, we got pizza in town at a very popular restaurant. That was the only time where the prices REALLY seemed a bit much, mostly because of the cost of the drinks. My gin and tonic was about $17 USD. Yikes. But the food was super good.
We rented a car, which I strongly recommend. If you’re going to go in the high season (which is basically July – August), you can’t just wing it — you need to book ahead. And if you want to do any off-roading, you’ll need to specify that with the car you rent. Our car was a basic sedan, which could have been an issue when we ended up on a road that was definitely a road, but also not entirely paved.
The landscape of Iceland is like nothing I’ve ever seen, and yet every part of it seems familiar and bizarre at the same time. Like, there were parts that reminded people of Arizona, or Ireland, but at the same time were unique.
On our way to town from the airport, we made a stop at the Blue Lagoon. I mean, have you ever seen anything like this?
On our first full day we went to two major sites along the Golden Circle: Geyser and Gullfoss.
Geyser is a geothermal park with an active geyser. It’s pretty amazing.
Gullfuss is a giant waterfall more like Niagara Falls than, say Yosemite Falls. Think big, not tall. Also, think breathtaking.
On our way from Gullfoss to Reykjavik, we passed some Icelandic horsies that we could feed and pet. They were adorable.
Reykjavik was fine — I’d like to go back — but the highlight there was definitely the dinner.
On our second full day, we went to Þingvellir, a national park. Gorgeous and odd. It’s situated on the seven-kilometer split where the North Atlantic and Eurasian continental plates are pulling apart. We mostly just stopped to look at some of the natural beauty, although we did see the Law Rock. So, so cool.
On our last day, we drove to a couple tiny towns to get a sense of the country, then made our way back to the airport.
Three nights was obviously not enough. We lucked out and had fantastic weather, but we barely scratched the surface. I’d love to return and do the entire ring road of the island, taking a couple of weeks to really explore it better. But as a first visit? It was pretty great.