For our amazing honeymoon, we went on a grand adventure around Iceland. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of our lives, and I felt it certainly merited a blog post. Iceland is full of unexpected beauty and surprised. The culture is lovely and unique and the landscape changes as drastically and as quickly as NYC neighborhoods. I've decided to recap our incredibly journey below. Enjoy!
After an overnight flight from JFK, we decided to rent a little Kia Picanto from the airport and make our way straight to the Blue Lagoon. After a long flight with little sleep, it was much needed. I'd heard that the Blue Lagoon is a tourist trap, meant for people doing the Iceland Stopover flights, however this place was even more magical than I thought. The water was so soothing and Dave and I had fun walking around in the hot water with silica masks on our faces and drinking some smoothies and beer. If you want are considering going to the Blue Lagoon, I highly recommend it. It's the perfect introduction to the unique natural phoenamena in Iceland.
After the Blue Lagoon, Dave and I made our way into Reykjavik. We stayed at the CenterHotel Plaza which is right in the heart of downtown and was a lovely experience. Reykjavik ended up being so much more quaint and adorable than I expected. It feels like a Nordic mountain town, with cozy houses with pops of color -- accompanied by a solid music/punk scene which seeps through as well. Dave and I walked along the waterfront, visited the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, and strolled along the streets. For dinner we ate at The Fish Company which was the perfect first-honeymoon-night dinner. A delicious dinner in a romantic setting...they even gave us champagne to celebrate!
Day 2 began with an early wake-up call for a horseback riding tour through The Icelandic Horse. The experience was wonderful and one of the most informative activities we did. We tolted through volcanic scenery and learned about Iceland on a windy morning. They even picked us up from Reykjavik right near our hotel!
After the tour tour we were dropped off back in Reykjavik and grabbed a quick bite for lunch at Bergsson Matus which was so cozy and delicious. It was right about this time that I realized Iceland has some of the most delicious bread and butter I’ve ever tasted. A very nice touch for a girl who’d been dieting for weeks to fit into a wedding dress. I was ready to indulge in my favorite things - carbs and dairy products.
After lunch we hopped into our car and began the route to the Ring Road. We drove along and gazed at the gorgeous scenery, just breathless. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Our first stop on the road trip was Geysir which is an area right off the road which several geysers and hot pools of water in the ground. It’s a bit touristy, with a big gift shop and restaurant next door but I highly recommend checking it out. We saw Strokkur erupt several times while we were there which was pretty amazing.
After that we had a bit of driving to do before we would get to our Airbnb. We stayed in the coziest guesthouse in Hvolsvöllur booked through Airbnb.
In the morning they had traditional Icelandic breakfast for us, including more delicious bread and spreads. We chatted with the host and other travelers, checked out the landscape around the guesthouse, and then made our way to see Seljalandsfoss.
It was a rainy, windy morning but the views were absolutely breathtaking. We hiked up the side of the waterfall and took in the gorgeous views. Then we made our way to Dyrhólaey which was quite the experience. We took our little Kia up a steep mountain and opened the doors to what felt like hurricane-force winds. Honestly, I felt like one of the weather reporters waiting for the eye of the storm. It was hilarious for the most part, but I got to a point at which I could no longer move forward against the winds! It was definitely a crazy experience.
We drove along the coast a little more to finally see the famous Black Sand Beach. It was even more gorgeous in person than in the photos I'd seen. We felt like we were living in a black and white movie.
We continued along the ring road for a while. To be honest, though Dave was doing an excellent job of driving our tiny car, I felt fairly nervous for a while as the racing winds pounded up against us. Iceland weather made me feel so small and powerless -- I felt the weight of nature like I never had before. It was both exhilarating and terrifying, but thanks to Dave's focus we made it out of the storm without a scratch.
Our next stop was Haoldukvisl which we stumbled upon. It was an incredible feeling to get out of the car to the sunshine and massive glaciers and mountains in front of us. We could see the storm in the distance and we watched it move over the horizon. After that we stopped by Fjallsárlón Iceberg Lagoon and drove past Jökulsárlón -- unfortunately I don't have any photos because the sun had already set. I wish we had spent more time there, definitely check it out!
That night we stayed in the town of Hali at Reynivellir. This is the only place on the whole trip that I wouldn't recommend staying. After being in a car all day, bracing myself from wind and cold while outside, all I wanted was to be in a warm, clean bed with my own space. I'm completely fine sharing a bathroom in a guest house, but it was like this place was unfinished and it was not as warm as I'd hope. Not the worst, but my least favorite for sure.
The next morning we got breakfast in Höfn at a cute little place called Hafnarbuðin and explored around a bit. We had a long drive ahead of us, and needed to make our way to Lake Myvatn before sunset, so we spent the majority of our day gazing at the views along the Ring Road.
After spending some time in what we now refer to as "Mars", we made our way to the Myvatn Nature Baths which I had been particularly excited to check out. It was cold and windy that evening, which caused the naturally hot springs to be not quite as hot, but Dave and I enjoyed our time. They also had a hot tub to enjoy if the hot springs weren't warm enough. This experience was lovely, I wish I had photos to share, but I highly recommend checking out the nature baths.
Then, that night we stayed at Hotel Myvatn which was perhaps my favorite place we stayed on the whole trip. At least, as far as hotels go. It was incredibly warm, clean and cozy. The front desk also offers room calls if the Aurora shows up during the night. The breakfast was delicious and across the street they have some incredible pseudo-craters. The area is called Skútustaðagígar.
After visiting the pseudo-craters, we decided to check out a real crater, Hverfjall, which was absolutely incredible. The area around Lake Myvatn is so volcanic, it has led to some truly unique and beautiful natural formations. We also checked out Grjótagjá cave which, if you're a Game of Thrones fan, is where Jon Snow and Ygritte had their infamous deflowering scene...
We also backtracked to check out Dettifoss, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe. I'd recommend seeing this while making your way into Myvatn, but we had run out of daylight the day before. Definitely great to check out.
After Myvatn, we headed north to the town of Akureyri which is another example of how quickly the landscape and culture can change when driving through Iceland. All of the sudden, we were in a beautiful arctic town full of life and people. We were in awe, gazing out at the mountains against the cold ocean. This was one of our most favorite places we visited. We grabbed coffee at Kaffi Ilmur, checked out their local church Akureyrarkirkja, and soaked in the scenery. I never would've expected to love arctic culture so much, but those who live in such frigid climates find a way to make everything so lovely and cozy.
Dave and I ate a delicious dinner at the spa, and then sat in a private bathtub filled with warm water and beer oils/sediments which is said to be beneficial for your skin. It was so luxurious and relaxing, a bonus that we had unlimited access to a keg of beer right next to the bathtub for our 40 minute soak.
After that, we were led upstairs to a room full of lounging beds, and we were tucked in for a 30 minute nap! The coziest of cozy, if you ask me. We awoke from our nap, sat in a sauna for a bit, and then our Airbnb host texted us saying he had seen the Northern Lights! So Dave and I headed out to the outdoor hot tub at the spa, ordered some Icelandic beer, and watched little glimmers of the Aurora move across the sky. It was one of the most magical nights we experienced on the entire trip.
The next day we made our way to the Snaefellsnes peninsula, but not before stopping to get some homemade ice cream from Erpsstadir Creamery. The creamery/dairy is a great example of Icelandic countryside. David and I pulled up to the creamery to find no one inside, or in sight at all. We waited for a bit, tried calling a phone number on the door, and then a man drove up in his truck because he saw us waiting. He likely drove from the dairy portion of the farm just to serve us ice cream! I love how laid back their culture is. The ice cream was so fresh and creamy, I definitely recommend it!
Then we headed to the peninsula, making a few photo stops along the way, and then visiting Stykkishólmur to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. We grabbed a snack at Narfeyrarstofa which of course had delicious bread and butter and cozy atmosphere. The whole peninsula is so lush and the light bounces off the mountains so beautifully. This was another favorite area we had explored. A completely different experience than the area before.
That night we stayed in another amazing Airbnb, this time facing the beautiful Kirkjufell Mountain. We had been tracking the Aurora on apps all day and every one was calling for a good show that night. Thank goodness our cottage had big windows and essentially front row seats to the most gorgeous showing of the lights! We had thought we'd seen something amazing the night before, but this, this was incredible. I can still feel my heart jumping as the lights danced across the sky. It was the most gorgeous and spectacular sight I've ever seen. And we could hear people in the distance, cheering along with us.
The next day we did a little more exploring around the area, visiting Kirkjufellsfoss and grabbing coffee in the nearby town Grundarfjörður. The focus of this day was making it to Friðheimar, AKA the "tomato restaurant", AKA a MUST for Dave, before it closed. We enjoyed the scenery along the way, and then had our minds blown by the amazing greenhouse restaurant. Seriously, this is one of the coolest places I've ever eaten. Not only did they grow all tomatoes on-site, in the greenhouse in which we ate, but they also bred and trained horses so essentially this was a win-win for us. We enjoyed tomato soup, flatbread, Bloody Mary's, and even tomato ice cream. Definitely check this place out if you get a chance!
And just like that, it was time to head to our hotel for the night before flying out in the morning. We grabbed Icelandic hot dogs at a place near us after dropping off our car. It was a cozy night for us as we prepared to head back to the real world. I still can't believe we got to go on such an amazing trip. I highly recommend Iceland for anyone who wants to experience how gorgeous the world can be. It's incredibly accessible and easy to navigate. Go for it! I mean it.