Let’s be honest, when my husband told me last year he wanted to go to Iceland I was not thrilled. Then when he told me he wanted to go to Iceland and leave our son at home I was even less thrilled. Iceland had never really appealed to me and had you asked me to name some of my dream destinations I don't think Iceland would have even made the top 10. However, for Jon, Iceland was top of his list, a bucket list item and after hearing about all the research he had done and the excitement he had, I gave in and in June we packed up and headed to Iceland for 12 days.
Let me preface, we went to Iceland but we did not do most of the things you might think of when you think of traveling in Iceland. We did not stay in Reykjavik, we didn't drive the ring road (or the golden ring) and we did not go to the blue lagoon. I also want to preface, getting to Iceland can be fairly inexpensive, but cost of living in Iceland is high and you need to be prepared for a little bit of sticker shock when paying for gas, food, lodging and basically anything else (including many hotpots). However, with all that being said; our trip was pretty magical.
Our trip started off with a bit of a hiccup. We flew into the Reykjavik airport at 7am… except it was really the Keflavik airport... we had an 8am flight to Isafjordur (a small town in the northern part of the Westfords). However, all domestic flights fly out of very small domestic airports, so we were at the wrong airport with less than an hour to make it to the other side of Reykjavik. Despite the efforts of a very friendly taxi driver… we didn’t make it. So I guess we did spend that day in Reykjavik trying to stay awake before our new flight to Isafjordur later that night.
We made it to Isafjordur, picked up our rental car and basically found our airbnb and went to sleep; we were exhausted! The next day we explored the small town, rode some Icelandic horses and ate one of the best meals of our lives at Tjöruhúsið (for Jon, the very best meal of his life, just barely beating out La Maison in Santorini). However the reason we went to this town was because of a camping trip we were going on in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. We used a tour company called Borea Adventures for a 3 days tour of the Hornstrandir peninsula and it was by far our favorite part of the trip. We spent 3 days exploring some of the most beautiful cliffs, waterfalls, valleys and landscapes we had ever seen. We had some incredible weather. This area is known for having pretty dense fog that can roll in extremely quickly and we were lucky in that we got to see everything the hike had to offer. We still had fog and it was pretty incredible just how quickly it would move through some of the passes but it also made for some beautiful images. We spent about 6-8 hours a day hiking, and the only negative about this trip was the fact that we had to fjord an arctic river to get to and from base camp. Over the three day camping trip we had to fjord the river 3 times and the water was up to my knees. So to stay warm after, we had to take our shoes off, pull our pant legs up, take a deep breath and walk about 100 meters through a probably 35 degree arctic river. And if you know me, you know I have something called Cold Urticaria which means I am allergic to the cold, so in those 100 meters my legs broke out into some impressive hives, but how many people can say they have fjorded an arctic river? Worth it.
After the camping trip we headed south and spent the rest of our trip exploring the Westfords. We made stops at the Dynjandi waterfall and Flokalundur. We spent some time exploring the Puffin Cliffs in Látrabjarg, too. These cliffs have one of the largest collections of puffins in Iceland. We also spent a few days in Arnarstapi. While in Arnarstapi, we toured some lava tubes, hiked through lava fields, explored some small coastal towns, saw Gatklettur, Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge and Kirkjufellsfoss. We also had the chance to watch Iceland play their first world cup game in a local bar. This might have been one of our highlights as well. It was so fun to hang out with the locals and cheer on this sweet country and the fact that we got to experience such a great game made it extra fun.
Iceland definitely exceeded my expectations and it was definitely worth it. It was between 40-50 degrees the whole time we were there, and since we were so far north, and because it was summer, the sun never dipped below the horizon the whole time we were there, which was pretty crazy.
So for those planning a trip to Iceland, I would encourage you to take the road less traveled, which in Iceland will probably lead to a one lane dirt road surrounded by sheep but that one lane road will also lead to beauty indescribable.
A few other travel tips:
Go to a grocery store and buy a few things to pack for lunch and/or to make a few of your own dinners. This will save money in the long run since eating out can be quite expensive
Get an N1 gas card. Many of the gas stations are self serve and do not have attendants and the self serve pumps DO NOT TAKE AMERICAN CREDIT CARDS (unless you call your credit card company well ahead of time and get a new credit card with a pin number on it)
Go during the summer (unless you love snow. A lot). Most places you want to travel during the “off season”, but in Iceland, most areas get so much snow that many of the mountain passes will be completely shut down due to snow.
If you plan to do any hiking, invest in a good pair of waterproof boots!
Pack layers, even in the summer temperatures can change quickly make sure you are prepared with appropriate layers.
Links to the AirBnBs:
Isafjordur- The Old Slippur Marina Apartment
Flókalundur - Hotel Flókalundur
Arnarstapi - Arnarstapi House
Njardvik - Comfort Private studio Apartment
Riding Icelandic Horses at Fosshestar.
Ferry to Hornstrandir
Hike to the top of the Horn at Hornstrandir
my favorite picture from the trip
casually crossing an Arctic river
Puffins in Látrabjarg
Vatnshellir Lava Cave on Snæfellsnes
Hiking at Mt. Esja just outside Reykjavik
View of Reykjavik from Mt. Esja