ICELAND TRAVEL DIARY | SUMMER 2017
Close your eyes and imagine a place that is full of lush greenery, breathtaking waterfalls and mountains, and is home to a brick-adorned city full of character and culture. Now open your eyes, head over to Google and type in "Iceland," because this place isn't a figment of your imagination, but exists in real life.
A few weeks ago I took a trip to explore the Nordic island nestled in the Atlantic Ocean, and after our week-long trip I ultimately fell in love with the country and all it had to offer.
Our eight-day vacation included excursions such as hiking, snorkeling, and swimming. We not only had the chance to immerse ourselves in the landscape, but we explored the diverse city of Reykjavik through walking the quiet streets, chowing down on local eats, and shopping the boutiques. While we spent over a week in this breathtaking country it's safe to say that I will be returning in the future to continue exploring and appreciating all Iceland has to offer.
The Blue Lagoon was everything that it was cracked-up to be and more. The water was crystal clear with a bright blue hue, and its temperature skyrocketed above 90-degrees fahrenheit. The warmth of the water was a fabulous treat after running across the deck that connected the indoor cafe to the lagoon outdoors. Since the temperature in Iceland was around 40-degrees fahrenheit that evening, the hot water was not only relaxing but immediately warmed up my body.
As an added bonus the lagoon offered a silica face mask that detoxifies your pores and left your face radiant and hydrated. Similarly to a hot tub, after spending an hour or two in the Blue Lagoon you were left feeling a bit dehydrated, so we took full advantage of the swim-up bar and sipped on green smoothies.
The second day we dived into the culture and history of Iceland though a walking tour of Reykjavik. We were taken around the city's narrow streets and up hills to learn more about the country's origins. After, we explored Laugavegur Street -- the city's shopping hub -- to find souvenirs and get a bite to eat. Being the fashion-lover that I am, I ended up purchasing a dress from a boutique called Freebird. The bohemian aesthetic instantly caught my attention, and after researching their in-house label "Beautiful Stories," I was intrigued with the brand's Icelandic design and ethically-crafted pieces. Obviously, I had to buy something. I ended up splurging on a whimsical patterned dress that was so soft and comfortable that I ended up wearing it the day we returned back to Chicago from the trip.
Day three was full of hiking and exploring the abundance of nature that Iceland embodies. We traveled in our Icelandic-style car around the Golden Circle and hiked to Þingvellir National Park, Bruarfoss Waterfall (which ended being quite a muddy but fun excursion), Geysir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and the Kerid Crater. After a full day of adventuring we filled our stomachs with DELISH vegan and raw eats from Glo in Reykjavik — a must-try if you plan on visiting Iceland!
On Day four we picked up our camper van (YES, a camper van!!!) and began our trip around Ring Road. Our first stop was Reykjadalur Valley, or "Steam Valley," where we hiked around an hour to a geothermal hot spring. These hot springs are AMAZING because you hike to them, strip down to your bathing suit, and hop in! It's exactly like wading in the hot tub minus the smooth ground. Since these "hot tubs" are 100-percent natural and warmed by the country's volcanoes the surface is covered with rocks.
PRO TIP: bring a pair of flip-flops or water shoes with you to make the experience a little more comfortable!
After Reykjadalur Valley we made our way to Selfoss, our campsite for the night.
Day five was by-far our busiest day! We started off bright-and-early and made our way to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall where we had the chance to hike behind the waterfall. It was an amazing experience, and the view from behind the waterfall was breathtaking! After, we hiked about five-minutes to Gljúfrabúi Waterfall which was tucked away inside a cave. We carefully made our way on the rocky path submerged in the waterfall's stream, and the sight was amazing -- and made for some killer pictures. After these two waterfalls we went on another hike to Seljavallalaug, man-made pool filled with natural geothermal water. If you're someone who is searching for a less adventurous version of the natural hot springs, then Seljavallalaug is perfect for you! Next, we climbed around 300 stairs to catch the view of the top of Skógafoss Waterfall which was tucked into the cliffs along the coast of Iceland— waterfalls galore! Later, we made our way to Dyrholaey Cliffs and Reynisfjara, a black sand beach.
FUN FACT: both of these locations have been filming hotspots for the TV show Game of Thrones.
Nothing says "ADVENTURE" quite like hiking on a glacier — ice hammer and all. On day six, we hiked on the famous (as it has been featured in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Interstellar) Svínafellsjökull Glacier. Believe it or not it wasn't as hard or as cold as you may think, rather it was an amazing experience. The landscape was beautiful and nothing like I've ever seen before, and per usual it made for some awesome photographs. After hiking, we feasted on local eats at Shell Freysnesi. In Reykjavik most Icelandic meals cost around $25 USD, but here the traditional Icelandic food was only around $10 USD — and it was delicious.
After we finished glacier hiking and eating, we made our way to the Jökulsárlón ice lagoon. It's hard to tell in pictures, but the size of the lagoon was massive and the icebergs were huge too. You wouldn't necessarily think that an ice lagoon would be cool to look at, but coming from someone who despises the cold it actually was an amazing sight. Following the Jökulsárlón we went across the street to the ice beach appropriately named Diamond Beach. All along the shore were small pieces of ice that had washed up in result of the icebergs in the glacier lagoon melting and making their way over to the beach. Though it's sad that the 'bergs were melting, it was interesting to see ice on a beach since we relate a beach to being hot and sunny.
After the excursions, we drove to Kirkjubæjarklaustur where we camped by a waterfall.
Our final (and coldest) day in Iceland was an experience that I'll never forget. After roughly a two-hour drive we arrived in Silfra where we snorkeled (or dived if you wanted to embrace the coldness in a wetsuit) between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The water was crystal clear, and you could see straight down between the two plates. It was scary, but it was unforgettable.
After an amazing tour, we headed back to Reykjavik for yet another dinner at Glo (where I unapologetically devoured a raw vegan enchilada and a raw vegan Snickers cheesecake). After dinner, we made our way to our final campsite of the trip right by a lighthouse along the beach in Gardur.
Thank you (and my parents) for such an awesome trip!
Also, shoutout to my brother, Brett, for planning out this entire vacation (going to Iceland has been his dream for the past five-years, haha!). Make sure to check out the video he made with montage from our trip, it's pretty awesome!