After visiting Reykjavik, Iceland this past month I thought I'd compile a list of a few things that you HAVE to do when you visit. We went to Iceland at the end of February and of all the times we could have been there, we happened to be there when they got a record breaking 19 inches of snow. Unlike what you might think, this is NOT COMMON for Iceland! They haven't had that much snow since the 1930's and I've never been anywhere that was so prepared. Despite us having to switch a little of our itinerary around, we managed to do everything we had planned!
Whether you're planning your trip, or just interested in what Iceland has to offer, here are a few things that we did during our trip and I would definitely recommend!
1. Blue Lagoon
As "touristy" as it is, you have to do it! It was hands down one of my favorite parts of the trip, no matter how many people there were. The milky blue water was so relaxing, it was the best way to start the trip. We paid a little extra for the "comfort" ticket, which included a free drink ticket (Somersby Cider was amazing), two different types of face masks, and a towel. We brought our own hot pink robes, which actually made it super easy to spot ours out of the crowd of rented white robes everyone else had. I read about how getting the water in your hair would dry it out really bad so I took some of the conditioner that they provided in the showers and lathered it in my hair before taking a dip and did not have a problem! Don't forget a pair of flip flops and a hairbrush!
2. Golden Circle (Rent a car!)
By far one of the best decisions we made was to rent a car for our trip! It made everything so much easier and gave us a little more freedom. We had planned to self drive the golden circle the second day but with the snowfall, we were unable to get the car out of the driveway and chose to just explore Reykjavik on foot that day. So on the third day of the trip we made it out and the roads were actually not too bad.
First stop on our self drove tour was Gulfoss Waterfall. Such a beautiful area. If you go in the winter make sure to DRESS WARMLY! When we were there it was probably around 30 degrees outside and while that may not seem too awful, the closer you get to the falls, the colder you get. You are able to feel the mist from the falls combined with wind and cold air. We didn't stay here very long due to how unbearably cold and wet our faces were after a few minutes. Still worth the trip, the scenery was unreal.
Second stop on our tour was Geysir. This area was slightly warmer. Here is where you'll find the famous Strokkur Geysir. It erupts once every 6-10 minutes like clockwork and was pretty awesome to witness a few times. We spent a little more time at this site reading all the signs and taking photos. Then it was on to our next stop. GAS STATION HOT DOGS! (Not joking, they were amazing.)
Lastly, we stopped at Kerid Crater. Most Golden Circle Tours will also take you to Thingvellir national park but we had planned a snorkeling excursion inside the park on another day so we decided to skip this on our tour and just see it once! Kerid was pretty cool, there is a small entrance fee, as opposed to the other sites which were both free, but climbing to the top and looking down into the crater was worth it.
3. Thingvellir National Park (Snorkeling!)
So you might be thinking, "wait.. didn't she go in the winter?" ... Yes, yes I did. And yes, I did go snorkeling. Sounds crazy but it wasn't as bad as you might think! We booked our snorkeling excursion through Arctic Adventures. In this trip we were able to snorkel between two tectonic plates. We did wear dry suits with wool clothing underneath which kept us warm. The only parts of our body that got wet were our hands, face, and head. The gloves we wore were able to trap the water inside, which then was heated by our body temperature making it not totally unbearable. Our face and lips were basically so cold that it went numb and we couldn't feel anything after a few minutes (no biggie, right?) and somehow my hair got wet but to be honest I don't remember it feeling wet when I was in the water so it wasn't too big of a deal either!
The water was crystal clear glacier melt water, so clean that you can drink it. Which we did. The dry suits we wore were very buoyant so even if you don't know how to swim you can definitely do this excursion!
4. Northern Lights Hunting
We actually had the opportunity to see the northern lights twice during our trip! The first night we had just finished a beer tour at the Gulf Brewery, and on our way back we could actually look up in the sky in Reykjavik and see the lights... something that doesn't happen too often due to all the light polution. When we got back to our hotel we managed to get to an area on the water where we could see them a little brighter. If you are trying to photograph the lights you reallllllly need a DSLR camera. I managed to get a few shots on my iPhone 7 but they don't look nearly as good as the photos on my Canon.
The second time we saw the lights we booked a tour through Reykjavik Excursions. Around 9pm we all loaded onto a bus and they drove us out near Thingvellir National Park away from the city lights. Unfortunately this night it was super cloudy so many of the photos I got this night you can only see a glimpse of the lights peeking through the clouds. They definitely appeared a lot brighter though since we were out of the city.
5. Nightlife in Reykjavik
We stayed in Kerno Apartments in downtown Reykjavik during our trip. They were a few blocks away from most of the bars and restaurants in downtown. There are no Ubers so we decided to just walk everywhere we went and with the snow falling down the first night we were there, and the snow on the ground everywhere else, there were many people out and about and walking in the streets. We checked out a couple bars while we were there, and then made our way to one of the most popular night clubs "Astur." It was a fun atmosphere but not as crazy as I had expected. The bars don't close until early morning hours, I believe 4am or 5am. So luckily for us and a 5 hour time difference, 5am only felt like midnight!
If you're feeling like shots one night, try the Brennivin. It is the classic Icelandic Spirit that can only be found in Iceland! It has a slight licorice taste (which I'm not really a fan of and I enjoyed it!). It has a cool history behind it's making and any local I'm sure will be able to tell you the story.
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