*plays Ice Ice Baby in the background of this entire post*
Iceland has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember…and then was reconfirmed after the addiction that was Game of Thrones. It has quickly become such a popular place to visit too! Whether it’s walking along the Black Sand Beaches of Vik, riding Icelandic Horses, or hunting for the Northern Lights at 11PM with hot chocolate in hand, this place made so many memories for Tyler and I. The flight wasn’t bad either: 4.5 hours there and about 5.5 hours back to Boston making the jet lag (somewhat) bearable.
Warm Shoe Recommendations
Iceland is cold (duh!) but living between Boston and Pennsylvania I was pretty use to it. I discovered Cougar Shoes and they are built for rain/cold climates. Check out a few of my favorites:
Day 1 | The Golden Circle
We took a Red Eye and arrived at 6AM (Icelandic Time), hopped in the rental car, and drove into the city of Reykjavík at sun rise to check into our hotel. Mini Plug: 22 Hill Hotel is SO CUTE, offers breakfast with outstanding yogurt, and the best front desk assistance I’ve ever experienced! They also have a coupon book filled with restaurants and activities at a discount rate, which is so ideal when traveling! We stayed in the same place all week because neither of us were fans of packing and repacking more than once. This gave us the opportunity to really explore the city, night life, and discover favorite breweries for the next time we visit.
After dropping our bags in the room and filling up on the breakfast (Strawberry Icelandic yogurt is what dreams are made of) we hopped in the car and started to tackle The Golden Circle! This includes:
- Þingvellir National Park
- Geysir geothermal area
- Gullfoss Waterfall
- Kerið Crater
Depending on where you are staying for the night will determine the order of these. So since we were staying in Reykjavík the whole time, we worked from the bottom to the top. My personal favorite was the Gullfoss Waterfall, to sit here and write how incredible it was, is truly an understatement.
When we returned, we regrouped in our hotel and got ready to discover our first restaurant of the vacation. I will be the first to admit, we didn’t have any traditional Icelandic food; but we definitely discovered some amazing breweries, pizza joints, and burgers along the way! We came across a new favorite brewery.
On The Menu: Frederiksen Ale House. This is where we shared flights of yummy beers, including a craft pink beer on tap, and gushed over the best wings we have ever had in our entire lives. They make the sauce with a custom Pale Ale and sesame seeds, making them crunchy incredible! I have no shame in telling you all, we came back for more…three times.
We fought through the jet lag and turned in early for the night because sleep is magical…and slept for 14 hours.
Day 2 | Waterfalls and Glaciers and Black Sand Beaches, oh my
I woke up so giddy and gushing, because today was the Black Sand Beaches day! I have seen so many bloggers discovering so many amazing spots along this incredible beach and I was far too excited to channel my inner Daenerys. Again we grabbed free breakfast, snacks from the local grocery store and hit the road (this trip one way was about two hours, but we made a few stops along the way to break up the trip) !!!!
Pro Tip: When on vacation, hit up local grocery stores or complimentary breakfast to save some cash. This way you can treat yo’ self to dinners every night and explore different areas of where you are staying!
We visited the following stops leading us to the Black Sand Beach:
- Skóagoss Waterfall
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Sólheimajökull Glacier Hike
- Dyrholaey Arch
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
The Seljalandsfoss Waterfall was simply breath taking. But a lot of it was closed off when we went due to weather and ice, which you just have to roll with being there around winter. However, the waterfall itself did not disappoint!
Finally, we arrived at the Black Sand Beach in Vik. The country side of Iceland is so simplistic and beautiful, filling Tyler and I with so much excitement. A little trivia for you: because Iceland is home to over 130 volcanoes, black sand beaches are created from volcanic ash after lava interacts with the sea water! It is also voted one of the Top 21 Beaches in the world, and I’d have to agree.
On our drive back, while singing to The 1975 as per usual, I looked over at Tyler and said: “I want to see the Northern Light tonight,” and so when we got back to our hotel we went to ask the front desk how we can go about seeing them. Tyler and I are not a fan of guided tours, but for this we knew we had to attend one. There is a tour called Mini Lux Tour Bus, that I would highly recommend them. They offer a “second chance” option so if you do not see them the first night, you can try again whenever you want during your stay. So, we booked the tour and were off to dinner!
On The Menu: The Flatey – the most expensive and one of the best pizza’s we ever had. We shared our personal pizza’s and had a few craft beers before going back and layering up to hunt for the Northern Lights.
Chances of seeing them this night were low (2 on a scale of 5 to be exact) but it was a clear night and our tour guide was feeling optimistic. Which, thank god he was. We were just outside of the city, at 11PM, bundle up with hot chocolate, when beams of green light danced ever so slightly in the sky. I still can’t believe how lucky we are. Everyone goes to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, but they are actually hard to come by! The front desk told us there is a couple that comes to Iceland every year, for the past seven, and have not seen them. Seeing them on our first try, with the person you love the most, is truly spectacular.
Day 3 | Blue Lagoon Bliss
We let ourselves sleep in a bit, and got the very last minutes of breakfast. Then, we walked around the city to do some shopping! There are so many little stores to pop in and out of, that are more than just your classic souvenir store. There is a famous “Town’s Best Hot Dog” that we had to try called: Bæjarins bestu. It is in the city center and is the cutest little hot dog stand. Tyler and I got the classic dog, and split it between the two of us!
We booked for the 2PM time slot for the Blue Lagoon, and (again) treated ourselves to the Premium package. This included two face masks and a complimentary drink. Naturally, the winds were whipping at 20MPH and the Blue Lagoon’s waves were rolling like an ocean tide. It is so silly to see people all around the world swimming in face masks, holding their cell phones in plastic cases, and sipping on drinks all while battling the waves the weather created that day.
Pro Tip: Bring your own shampoo in a mini bottle for after the Blue Lagoon. They require you to shower before entering the lagoon, and for girls they suggest putting conditioner in your hair and leaving it up to avoid the water as much as possible. I wish I brought shampoo, makeup removers, and make up basics to refresh after swimming in the lagoon.
We booked dinner at the LAVA restaurant at the Blue Lagoon, which was part of the Premium Package we bought for the day. We did an early dinner and decided to spilt a few apps and then do a later dinner in town. They offer a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine as well, which was another nice treat of the day/evening. We had steak tartar and a seafood sauté, which was divine. After this, we went back to the hotel to change and relax before doing a late night dinner and an improv bar hop.
The front desk made an incredible suggestion for a “Brewery and Bites”!
On The Menu: Bastards Brewery
Tyler’s Favorite: The Double Bastard Burger.
Andrea’s Favorite: Tacos, of course! (one chicken and one pulled pork)
Fact: Tacos are better than pizza, please don’t fight me on this.
All of which were great! This place has an amazing vibe + scenery, and it was great to interact with locals and gush over how lucky we are to be there.
After dinner, we create our own little bar hop throughout town. Because of this, we discovered our personal favorite (but deadly) bar called: Lebowski’s. It is inspired from a movie, The Big Lebowski, that I had never seen prior to visiting this bar. Needless to say we watched it our first night home in the USA. However, it is a trend in Iceland to have spinning wheels at a bar, where you can win various drinks, shots, etc. At Lebowski’s, you pay the equivalent of two beers, spin the wheel, and whatever it lands on is yours! However, every other wedge is a “loss” and you walk away with nothing. This was an amazing night to meet people from all over the world, gamble our luck, and make incredible memories. We really had the most fun and just the greatest hangover!
Day 4 | Rest & Relaxation
We were originally going to see the west side of Iceland which consisted of Diamond Beach. However, we did not look into the travel distance from the city to this location. From the city, it was going to be FIVE HOURS one way. Note: In November, sunrise is on average 9:30AM and sun set is 4:30PM. So we decided to forgo that plan, and improvise.
Naturally, we decided to go to brunch and indulge on Eggs Benedict and Bloody Mary’s – a personal favorite combo. We then went from shop to shop searching for souvenirs and gifts for friends and family.
Pro Tip: never feel obligated to get gifts for every person you know, traveling is expensive as is! If you see the right gift for someone, buy it.
There is an iconic “Rainbow Road” in the town that is so cute for pictures! It was very appropriate we found it, because just as we were walking along the water side, a full rainbow appeared. I have never seen a full arch rainbow in my entire life, so it was the perfect setting for one to appear! After taking a million pictures and Face-Timing my parents in utter joy, we went back to he hotel to plan our afternoon.
After looking up things to do and a little relaxation, we decided to “treat yo’ self” – and do a couples massage. I love massages, so any chance I can get to have one, we do it! Because it was last minute, we went to 101 Spa right in the city. They did an amazing job and we so knowledgeable about massage therapy, making you feel safe, relaxed, and literally in good hands. I had a co-worker suggest the restaurant that we finally made it to.
On The Menu: Snaps Bistro
Tyler’s Favorite: The Steak
(okay, I normally don’t eat red meat – but this was amazing!)
Andrea’s Favorite: The Mussels
We also shared the Croque’s – so yum!
Day 5 | Horseback Riding Tour
Best. Day. Ever. A little bit about me: I have a very personal connection to horses. My dad played Polo (and every Sunday consisted of church and polo matches), I grew up with three horses in my back yard, and I rode/ went to riding camp for most of my childhood and young adult life. Let me tell you, you don’t realize how much you miss something until you get back on the horse and do it. Literally. I think my face hurt from smiling so big after being with Icelandic horses for four hours. WE also learned that this type of horse is one of the purest breeds in the entire world! This is because they are never allowed to leave the island and if they do, they can never return (due to cross breeding, diseases, and more!).
We went to örlaskeið 26, 220 Hafnafjörður at 1PM for a four hour tour and let me tell you: the weather was not our friend that day. The wind was whipping at about 25MPH and it was freezing cold. We all had to wear full body suits under our jackets, hats, and such just to stay warm. But that wasn’t going to stop me from being filled with an insane amount of joy. I really want to get back into riding, because this experience rekindled all my love for these incredible animals.
I’m not going to lie to you…that night we went back to Frederiksen Ale House and had apps with flights of draft beers. It was just too good! We then decided to make a little bar crawl of our own through the city, because why the heck not. This is where we met Kelsey & Cody.
The Back Story: We were at a bar, we started chatting the two of them up, and discovered that we were all from Philadelphia. Small world, huh?! We then spent the night with them bar hopping around, discovering local jazz bands, and of course bringing them to the bar Lebowski’s for beer wheel spinning fun. It was a great time to close out our trip to Iceland!
I’ve meet some incredibly cool people when traveling and it one of my favorite things to do when exploring a new place. Iceland was easily top five on my bucket list for places to travel and I am so happy to do it with my sweet husband, Tyler.
Day 6 | The Goodbye
Our last day consisted of packing up, checking out, and last minuet souvenir shopping. As sad as I was to leave, I was beyond excited to hug my pup and sleep in my king sized bed. The flight was about 5.5 hours and needless to say, we went to bed at 8PM (which insomnia me has NEVER done before in my young adult life.)
I would recommend Iceland to anyone! It is definitely something to save up for, but one hundred percent worth it.
Until next adventure!