In tech we have many buzz words such as microservices, the cloud, frameworks, and artificial intelligence. Travel also has buzz words, and as of late, Iceland has been one of the biggest. Being a UX/UI Designer, I spend most of my days behind a computer. With two-thirds of the country being uninhabitable, a trip to Iceland is bound to be rustic, rural, and isolated, so the promise of spending most of my vacation outdoors was enticing!
After stepping off the plane, there were a couple things I initially noticed. First, the water in Iceland truly is pure. In the middle of a hike and thirsty? No problem, most places, you could take your water bottle and fill it up in one of the lakes, streams, glaciers or waterfalls. While hiking a glacier, we even performed “Viking pushups” in order to drink from the clear stream.
We took the Ring Road, also known as Route 1, around Iceland for 6 days!! There are beautiful sites all along the road! Right off the bat, you will find multiple waterfalls. Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss to name a few. These waterfalls you can just drive up to and then explore. At Skogafoss you can climb to the top of the waterfall and there’s a path to walk around. From the top one can see for miles. The landscape includes black sand beaches, rolling hills, waterfalls, and tons of sheep!
A little farther down the road you can walk out to the abandoned DC plane on Sólheimasandur. It’s two miles from the car, so wear your hiking shoes!! The walk out is on an open black sand beach that seems to stretch on forever, and upon arrival, the plane is just sitting there, with nothing around. I can imagine it’s quite eerie at night.
There are plenty of airbnbs along the way. We broke up our trip to hit sites as we made our way to our airbnb for the night. Be prepared to basically live out of your car. Just outside of the town of Vik you will find Reynisfjara black sand beach – well known for it’s basalt columns. This is a must see.
The further north and west you travel on the Ring Road, the fewer tourists you encounter. From here, we explored glacier country and hiked to more waterfalls and spent part of our day hiking a glacier.
On our way up north, we stopped to hike a secret canyon called Stuðlagil. The walk to the canyon was beautiful. Filled with multiple sceneries, you truly stepped into the country. We walked past a waterfall, past sheep, through a pasture, and through bushes to finally reach the picturesque Stuðlagil Canyon.
Then we spent a few days in Akureyri. This was our favorite town by far! It was larger than many of the quaint towns you pass through before realizing you had been in a town, but much smaller than the capital. Akureyri sits right along the water and has a small town feel. The square used to be bustling with people and now houses some great breweries, bakeries, and stores. It’s the perfect place to spend time talking with locals, playing games, or reading a book.
From Akureyri, we headed back toward Reykjavik. Towards the end of the drive, you’ll find Glymer hike. This was by far the highlight of the trip. The entire hike is filled with beautiful landscapes, birds, and rocky terrain. It’s a bit of challenge, so make sure you have your hiking boots, wind suit, and adventurous spirit. The entirety of the hike I felt like I’d stepped out of earth and into the world of Avatar! The pictures truly do not do it justice.
Our last three nights we rented a place near Reykjavik. It’s the perfect place to stay if you’re going to explore the city and surrounding area. We took a three hour trek up to Snæfellsjökull National Park. This park boasts black sand beaches, gorgeous coastlines, lava, caves, and more. Unfortunately, it was gloomy and rained most of the day.
We were lucky to experience incredible weather every day except one. However, even a gloomy day, is still a great day in Iceland. While visibility is drastically impaired on overcast, dreary days, there are still hidden treasures all over Iceland that even the weather cannot deter.
The Blue Lagoon
For our last and final day, we relaxed at the Blue Lagoon, and explored downtown Reykjavik. There are many geothermal springs in Iceland, but I have to say, the Blue Lagoon lived up to its hype. It never felt over crowded and I didn’t feel overly touristy. For the price of admission, you receive a free drink, face mask, and towel. I highly recommend this spa day! Some people recommend visiting right after landing. I for one recommend going on your last day. You’ll be able to appreciate it more and after all the exploration, a spa day is not only welcomed – it’s needed!
We almost missed exploring downtown and I’m so glad we stopped through. This city is charming. It’s filled with lots of shops, restaurants, and beautiful art! Reykjavik is a very whimsical city!
If you get the chance to visit Iceland, I encourage you to explore! Drive everywhere. Travel outside the main area and soak in the beautiful views of the coastline, the lava wasteland, the mountains, the waterfalls, the clear water and glaciers. Most of Iceland is untapped nature, and it’s beautiful. Truly, all you need is a vehicle, some snacks, and a windsuit. This country truly embodies the phrase,
“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”