This past weekend a few friends and I (4 couples in total) decided to stray from our typical warm weather/beach filled Memorial Day weekend and jumped across the pond to Iceland! Iceland has been on my bucket list for quite some time and I already cannot wait to return. We knew we would have to make the best use of our time with only having a long weekend, so we packed a non-stop itinerary, but left feeling completely fulfilled. Instead of listing where to eat, stay, etc. like I usually, I thought it would be more beneficial to give you our itinerary and my thoughts on each thing we did. I also can’t take any credit for this itinerary, one of my best girlfriends was incredible and put the entire thing together and I was just fortunate enough to reap the benefits of her amazing planning!
No matter what time of year you are heading to Iceland, always do your research. As you probably know, the weather patterns here are anything but typical, so it’s good to be prepared for any elements. Also when we were there, there was only about 3 hours of darkness (which honestly I would call dusk, it never fully got dark). It was the weirdest thing to get used to, but knowing this, I made sure to bring a sleeping mask so I wouldn’t have any issues falling asleep at night. Finally, Iceland is INSANELY expensive because they have to import so much. To be honest, with eating and drinking, it was as if you were doubling the cost of a meal in New York City (aka, a cocktail was around $25).
Our home away from home:
We decided with a group of eight it made the most sense to look into AirBNB options. We ended up with a charming, historic home located right smack in the city center of Reykjavik. It was amazing being able to walk out the door and down the block to the heart of the town filled with shops and restaurant. I know a lot of you ask for exact recommendations and places to stay, so I thought I would list out a few details that might be important if looking into this house.
Golden Circle Tour –
The majority of us landed around 5:oo am and by the time we picked up our rental car, we couldn’t couldn’t we were driving in Iceland, and headed into Reykjavik (about a 45 min. drive) we got in around 6:30 am. We knew our first day would be packed, so I tried my absolute hardest to get some shut eye on our flight. Our first tour was scheduled to pick us up from our house at 8:30 am. We did the Golden Circle Tour and used GeoIceland. I would highly recommend using this company (or the other one we used for the second tour), as we opted to pay a little more for a more intimate tour on a much smaller bus (about 16-20 people versus the large coach buses you will see all over). The smaller buses just gives your group more flexibility and by the end of the tour it was as if we were best friends with out driver/tour guide!
The golden Circle Tour was about eight hours long and three of the main attractions that it covered is the Gullfoss waterfall, the Thingvellir valley, and the Geysir hot spring area. While there, I had a few questions about what to wear on your feet. While a lot of people opt for hiking shoes, out entire group was in sneakers and were totally fine and comfortable. The “hikes” aren’t big hike’s….just about 10-15 minute walks. But always be prepared for rain and wear lots of layers, the temperature tends to be 10-15 degrees colder outside of the city.
< a smaller waterfall at the beginning of our day trip >
< Pit stop to see the Icelandic horses >
< Gullfoss Waterfall >
< Geysir >
< Tectonic Plates >
< Thingvellie National Park >
When we returned from our tour, we had a tiny bit of down time to relax and get ready for dinner. We made reservations for 8pm since we had a bar crawl scheduled for 10pm. We had dinner at a modern restaurant in downtown (trying to remember the name and will update the post!). The food and cocktails were very good (expensive of course), but the ambiance was not as fun as some of the other restaurants we saw/went to.
Bar Crawl –
We decided this would be a fun way to check out the night life, experience a few different places, and try out the local’s favorite drinks! We booked through Wake Up Reykjavik and our guide was named Woody (who was awesome). There were about 16 people on the crawl and we went to four different bars. My favorite was an 80s theme bar called Lebowski bar. I also really liked the first bar on the crawl, a hip bar called Loftio. We planned this bar crawl strategically where we didn’t have anything the next day until about noon since we were out bar crawling past 4am (and yes it was still light out)! The nightlife here was so much fun, a great mix of clubs and bars in a row, and a really fun and friendly atmosphere.
Food Tour –
We used the same company as the bar crawl, Wake Up Reykjavik and this time our tour guide was Gylfi. We all agreed that we was honestly was one of the nicest, friendliest guys and made this tour an absolute blast. The tour was about 5 hours long and we got to try 13 different types of food. My favorite was the rye bread ice-cream shown below – so good. My least favorite, which I admittedly couldn’t bring myself to try, was horse! Throughout the tour we learned so much history about Iceland, their culture and it was the perfect opportunity to really walk around and check out the city by foot.
Blue Lagoon –
While we all joked during the food tour that maybe it wasn’t the best planning to have to get into a bathing suit after a day of eating, we scheduled our trip to the Blue Lagoon for 6 pm this night. If you to Iceland, 110% a trip to the Blue Lagoon is a must! We ended up upgrading our tickets to premium once we got there to include flip flops, a bath robe and towel which I would highly suggest. Ladies, make sure you tie your hair up! The lagoon is extremely salty and drying on your hair. If you do get it wet, make sure you shower right away before leaving and condition your hair twice (they provide this).
The Blue Lagoon kind of doubles as a relaxing spa, and a pool party. Really it has something for anyone. We ended up staying in the water hanging out for more than 4 hours (you will never want to get out). You obtain a bracelet when you arrive and can charge drinks and food directly to it, and you pay for any of these incidentals when you leave. Note that they limit you to 4 cocktails (and 3 if you don’t upgrade to premium).
South Coast Tour –
This tour and the sites we saw were by far my favorite! We used Your Day Tours this time around for another small group experience. Although it rained (well, actually poured) the entire 10 hours we were on the tour, it was still absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, the day before in the Blue Lagoon we thought Matt’s iPhone 7plus was water proof, turns out it is not (be warned!) and I was using Matt’s phone all day during this tour because I didn’t want to ruin my good DSLR camera with the rain. The day after we got home his phone would not turn on and it turns out it was totally broken due to the Blue Lagoon and we lost all our pictures. I tried my best to ask our friends to send along their images, so that is what I have compiled below!
On this tour you stop at two waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss and then an amazing glacier Sólheimajökull. You also go to Reynisfjara, which is where the black sand beaches are and if you are lucky you will get to spot a puffin! Once again, our tour guide was awesome, incredibly nice, funny and kept us entertained the entire day! I think I can confidently say there is not one rude or mean person from Iceland.
< Black Sand Beaches >
< Skógafoss Waterfall >
< Sólheimajökull Glacier >
< Seljalandsfoss Waterfall >
< A tiny little house that Elves are believed to live in >
After the day of sight seeing, we headed to the English Pub, which was so fun with awesome live music. So much fun, that we came back here right after dinner to dance and sing until it closed. For dinner we went to Grillmarkaðurinn. The food was SO good, and the decor and vibe of the restaurant was perfect.
This was our last day and half of our group had an early morning flight while the rest of us were a little later. We explored the city a bit more, popped into a coffee shop, checked out the famous church and of course the view from the top!
and now for a few iPhone candids for your entertainment…