Well, I’m back! I’m surprised I actually blogged at least once whilst I was away but then we hit Toronto and all thoughts of blogging disappeared. But here I am ready to fill you all in on my latest adventures. I still can’t believe that we hit up 3 countries in 10 days, but alas we did and it was absolutely amazing.
I was going to put everything in one master post but realised that wasn’t realistic and you’d probably stop reading ¼ of the way in. So, here’s the first post of our transatlantic adventures starting off with Iceland.
Quick rundown: Iceland is cold. Iceland is expensive. Iceland is really fucking beautiful. We had a bit of a mishap on our first night but overall the trip was amazing. The weather wasn’t the greatest but we made the most of it and despite the cold and rain, the sights we witnessed were all worth it.
I definitely want to visit Iceland again because there are quite a lot of things I’d love to do that I didn’t get to, i.e. the Blue Lagoon.
We stayed in Laekur Hostel, which is located about 2km from the city centre. Situated in the really nice neighbourhood of Laugardalur there is a 24/7 grocery store just a minute down the road alongside a bakery and ice cream shop.
Our room was a 6-bed dorm room with free lockers located outside. It has shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, and for a hostel, the bathroom was extremely nice. Bed linen is provided but if you need a towel you’ll have to rent it from the downstairs cafe for €5. Each bed also came with a USB charger and lamp.
Overall, the hostel was nice and it had a homely feel. I probably wouldn’t look to stay there again because from when we checked in, it was a whole hassle and then having dinner that night in their cafe was also a whole hassle but if I had no other choice then I would stay there.
There are many things to do in Iceland – like a lot of things, but I feel you need a lot of money to do all of the things. We had to compromise between the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle, in which the Golden Circle won out because we got to go to a spa in the end anyway.
Reykjavík Art Museum
This museum is housed in three buildings and for ISK 1650 (£11/$14) you have 24hr to visit all three buildings. We were lucky and got tickets half price that day because not all of the galleries were open. We started off at Kjarvalsstaðir where we had breakfast from the museum cafe.
Kjarvalsstaðir houses art from Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval, who was one of the pioneers of Icelandic art. Much of his art portrays Iceland’s natural landscape and a lot of it also has ties with fantasy and works of imagination. Kjarval’s work can be divided into 3 main categories: landscapes, portraits and fantasy.
Each building also has a Wish Tree and as part of Yoko Ono’s interactive artwork, you are invited to write out your wish for peace and hang it on the tree.
After, Kjarvalsstaðir we moved onto Hafnarhús which houses art from more contemporary artists. A lot of the works on display are by Erró who was significant in the international pop art scene and a lot of his works draw on comic books and advertisements, which I loved! There’s also an interactive element towards the end part of your visit to the museum, in which you have to stick your head in a box and view what’s inside. #ART
Our last stop was Ásmundarsafn which was actually designed, worked and lived in by sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson. Sveinsson believed that the future of sculpture lay in approaching technology and many of his sculptures are displayed in this building. You can also go for a wander outside in the gardens where a lot of his other pieces are, as well.
Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran parish church in Reykjavík, Iceland. At 74.5 metres high, it is the largest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in the country. The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson, author of the Passion Hymns. – Wikipedia
We passed this church on the way to Kjarvalsstaðir and it is so beautiful! It has a very New Age feel to it and I thought at any moment that the top would transform and fly away. We didn’t go inside but you can go in and up the tower for ISK 1000 (£7/$9).
The Golden Circle
There are plenty of tour companies that do the Golden Circle and it is one of the most popular things to do whilst in Iceland. We opted to book our tour with Reykjavik Excursions and got picked up at the BSI bus terminal at 9 am to start our tour. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great the day of our tour but we made the most of it and it was honestly the best day ever.
Thingvellir National Park
Þingvellir (Thingvellir) is a historic site and national park in Iceland, east of Reykjavík. It’s known for the Alþing (Althing), the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries. On the site are the Þingvellir Church and the ruins of old stone shelters. The park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates, with rocky cliffs and fissures like the huge Almannagjá fault.
The park is absolutely massive and there is so much to explore! We were only there for half hour, unfortunately, but it was enough to take in the spectacular views and you know I’m a sucker for a good view.
The rain was pelting on my face and I thought the wind would pick me up and blow me away, but alas I stayed firm. You can see where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet!
Geysir Hot Spring Area
The whole area smelt like eggs because the sulphur coming from the geysers, but nevertheless this is also a really cool place to explore. It took us several attempts before we managed to see Stokkur spout water but we finally managed to capture it on camera. Stokkur spouts water up to 100ft every few minutes and all around the area, you will find hot water blowholes.
Gullfoss Waterfall is breathtaking. I don’t think I can put into words just how beautiful the waterfall is, but I’ll try. You have to spend at least 10 minutes just watching the rushing of the water and wondering how nature is so amazing and why anyone would want to ruin it? The water cascades down in two parts: one 11 m high, and the other 21 m. I’m going to run out of superlatives trying to describe Iceland!
Gullfoss means “Golden Waterfall” in Icelandic and on a sunny day the water actually takes on a golden-brown colour. Gullfoss is also the largest volume of water in Europe!
This was a nice way to end our tour of the Golden Circle. Many tours that we found on the Reykjavik Excursions website included an extra activity like snowmobiling, horse riding or ATV. We opted for Fontana’s natural steam baths as we weren’t going to the Blue Lagoon and this seemed like a good enough substitute.
Before we headed into the spa, we got to visit their geothermal bakery. They make the bread from an old recipe, afterwards, they dig it into the warm ground and bake it for 24 hours. After 24 hours, they dig the bread up and we got to sample some. Oh my goodness, it was delicious! Served with salted butter to offset the sweetness of the bread (there’s quite a bit of sugar in the recipe), it was so warm and yummy and we had to have several slices.
The spa is outdoors and even though it was raining it was still nice to relax in the hot pools. Their sauna and steam rooms were also amazing to just sit and sweat all of the toxins. Everything was so relaxing and definitely needed at the end of the long tour.
A great spot for breakfast or just to grab some coffee before you head out to explore the rest of the museum.
We happened upon this place on our first day into the city and decided to go there for dinner. Best choice ever. A sort of Subway in which you can see them make your pizza in front of you and it comes out piping hot from their pizza oven. The interior is stylish and clean reminding me a bit of a bar and the music was pretty good too.
Emilie and the cool kids
A cute little cafe which we stopped in on our way to get the bus back to the airport. Freshly made bagels, salads and coffees and tea can be ordered here. They also have smoothies, as well!
✨ Plan early! Seriously. If you plan on doing the Blue Lagoon, it’s best to book early as prices do increase closer to the time you want to go.
✨ You can download the app Straeto and buy your bus tickets. One ticket is ISK 460 (£3/$4) and the app also includes a trip planner and live map, as well as service updates.
✨ Craft an itinerary. It makes things a lot easier, especially as a lot of things in Iceland are spread out.
✨ Pack warmly. Iceland is cold – I am so glad I bought a new puffer jacket for my trip because I would have suffered otherwise!
✨ Iceland is a very walkable city, so unless you really have to you won’t need to use taxis.
✨ Be prepared for all kinds of weather. Rain is common and unfortunately, it did rain for most of our time there.
I had an amazing time in Iceland and I’m already planning in my head my next trip there! There are so many things that I didn’t get to do whilst there – definitely want to go whale watching and catch the Northern Lights next time! I would definitely recommend Iceland as a place to visit because it is unbelievably captivating.