Iceland in one word? Magical. To be honest, a trip to Iceland wasn’t something that had crossed my mind much before this trip. Sure, I’d pinned random travel shots here and there on my Pinterest, but I still had several places on my travel to-do list that I wanted to make it to beforehand. How I wish I knew better! Our time in Iceland (we were stationed in Reykjavik) was hands down one of the most incredible trips I’ve ever taken and I’ve since made it my life’s mission to convince everyone I know to make a trip—and to plan my own trip back. Warning: this is a long post…I just have a lot to say! If you want to skip the photos and instead get a video recap of our trip, there’s one I made at the bottom!
One thing that made our trip to Iceland unlike any trip I’ve ever taken before was the adventure aspect of it. Iceland is so adventurous and active—there are countless excursions and expeditions you can take in and around Reykjavik and I’m so glad we took the opportunity to try a few out. One of my favorites was our glacier hike through Reykjavik Excursions. We took an early morning bus out to the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue for a guided hike on the ice. Our tour guide was so fun and I feel like we really lucked out—he took us to a lot of locations I didn’t see the other tours passing through and was filled with SO much info about the glacier and its history. I think the scenery will look familiar to anyone who has ever watched Game of Thrones—many of the “beyond the wall” scenes are filmed in Iceland!
You’re probably wondering what they heck we’re doing up there ^^. That hole is filled with pure glacier water that our guide led us to, had us “plank” over and then drink. I kid you not, it was SO delicious—we even filled up our water bottles and I really think it stayed colder longer than typical. Really, I swear. Overall the glacier hike was incredible—definitely something I’d recommend you do if you’re able bodied and not afraid of heights! We also did a Northern Lights tour through the same company—equally as amazing and they’re so stunning in person. I got goosebumps!
Another incredible part of our tour was our stops at the Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls in the Icelandic countryside. I honestly couldn’t pick a favorite between the two—Skógafoss caught the light perfectly and often produced a rainbow across the front of it, while Seljalandsfoss was actually carved out behind the falls so you could walk behind it and see it from the backside—a totally cool (and very soggy) experience you can see more of in the video below! I definitely would recommend making it to both if you can—the great thing about going to Iceland in the fall, like we did, is that the weather and sunlight was perfect for an expedition like this. You might have a bit of a tougher time with these types of sites in the winter months, but you can likely still make it work!
Reykjavík was the perfect home base for our trip—and probably my new favorite city in the world. It’s so vibrant and modern, while at the same time staying true to Icelandic culture and tradition. Plus, everyone is SO nice. Seriously, it blew my mind how lovely and accommodating the whole city was to tourists. We stayed in the Penthouse Suite at the Luna Apartments (which was actually a surprise upgrade from what we booked!) and our whole stay was incredible. It was so comfy, beautiful and perfectly located in walking distance to the entire downtown area.
We built a whole day in to our plans to just wander around Reykjavik and tour the town, visiting some favorite restaurants and pop into the incredible shops dotting the town. You guys—the interiors shopping was so so good. There were Scandi decor items everywhere, gorgeous furniture and the coziest throws and blankets. I wanted everything!
A few of our favorite places were:
Kolaportid Flea Market A traditional flea style indoor market with lots of vendors, including some food items (like dried fish!). I got a few pairs of gloves for friends and family, as well as that hat you see above and my friend Allie got the cutest vintage brass candlesticks!
Hallgrimskirkja That first image above is Reykjavik’s most famous church. Located at the top of a main street, the church measures in at 244 ft high and, in addition to being beautiful and airy inside, it also serves as an observation tour that overlooks the colorful streets of Reykjavik and the harbor (This image, from my Instagram, was taken there!). The elevator ride to the top costs a few bucks, but the views are definitely worth it.
Bæjarins Bestu A famous hotdog stand by the water. You’d think that hotdogs maybe aren’t the kind of thing you want to have on a trip to Iceland but this place will make you reconsider. Get yours with “eina með öllu,” aka with everything on it—ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade, crisp fried onion and raw onion.
Sjávargrillið One of the best meals I’ve ever had. We opted for a ton of seafood dishes and I was completely blown away by mine—the salmon literally tasted like butter in your mouth! Plus, the vibe of the whole place was super cool. I think if I was a Reykjavik resident, I would be spending a lot of meals here.
Iceland Fish and Chips So so yummy. Fish and Chips is a big thing in Iceland and this place came highly recommended. It definitely disappoint! Make sure you get the lobster stew as well—it was delish!
Dill As a huge foodie mecca, multi-course tasting menus are big in Reykjavik. So many people told me about Dill when I mentioned I was planning a trip to Reykjavik and I tried to get a reservation in vain but couldn’t (it’s so popular!). Including it on the list in case you’re luckier than we were!
Apotek This is where we ended up having our tasting menu dinner! It’s actually a funny story—one afternoon we wandered into a ceramics shop, where I met an artist who happened to make some of my favorite dish ware that I buy at ABC Home in New York City for work. What a small world, right?! Anyways, we got to talking and he suggested Apotek when we couldn’t get into Dill. I’m so glad he did! The food was delicious and very different—although it changes with the seasons, ours consisted of: Icelandic ocean perch, Icelandic Minke whale, Icelandic sea trout, Icelandic plaice, a rack of free range Icelandic lamb and a chocolate mousse and raspberry rose for dessert. Swoon. It was delicious!
Reykjavik Roasters Coffee. This is very integral. Enough said.
Valdis ICE CREAM! Yes, ice cream in Iceland. You will be cold, but I urge you to get it anyways. They have so many flavors that are all handmade on the premises by the family that owns the store.
Our last stop before the airport was the infamous Blue Lagoon. Touristy, sure—but a must-hit spot for anyone passing through Iceland. It’s really just as stunning (and warm!) as everyone says it is. Make sure you make your way over to the “mask” bar where you can scoop the silica mud onto your face to make a mask. They even sell it at the spa there (and yes—I totally bought some)! A few tips: wear a bathing suit that you don’t really care about because the sulfur can damage your suit! Also, make sure you coat your hair in conditioner before going in—if you get the water in your hair, it can really dry it out, tangle it and damage it.
Sigh—well that about sums it up for our trip! If you’re interested in seeing some of these place in action, I made a video of our time in Europe, below—with the help of a GoPro that I rented!