Hello friends! I just got back late last night from my Iceland trip. So many of you have given me encouragement and advice for my first time travelling solo, and I want to share how it went. I’ve created a photo-journal of sorts; I hope you enjoy it!
I arrived at the Keflavik airport at 7 a.m., and took the flybus to Reykjavik. By the time I arrived in the city, stored my luggage at my AirBnb, and had breakfast, the sky started to lighten up a little. The Hallgrimskirkja (pictured below) is the largest landmark in the city and captured my eye immediately, so I decided to check that out first.
Isn’t that stunning? The architecture is gorgeously modern, and I got shivers every time I saw the church’s silhouette. I had a clear view of the steeple from right outside my apartment door, and was able to see it first thing every morning. On this first day, I went inside to take a look.
This organ is the largest instrument in all of Iceland. The photo doesn’t quite convey just how massive it is… but trust me, it’s huge.
I noticed that you could pay a fee of 900 kr to go up in the steeple – there was no way I could pass up an opportunity like that. I went up a rickety elevator, climbed a flight of stairs, and found myself looking out over this incredible view:
Being up in the steeple was such a surreal experience. The wind sounded like a banshee screaming, and the air was bitterly cold so high up. Yet, I have never felt more alive, looking across the mountains and towards the sea.
After leaving the tower, I headed across the street to the Einar Jonsson museum, which was filled with beautiful sculptures. Photography was not allowed inside the museum, but I took some photos of the sculpture garden out back.
At this point, I was starting to get quite hungry again. I headed to the nearest eatery, Cafe Loki. The menu was filled with all sort of adventurous options, such as sheep’s head jelly and fermented shark. I decided to go a little tamer, and ordered their meat soup with lamb, and rye bread ice cream for dessert. I know rye bread ice cream sounds kind of weird, but it was actually really delicious! I ended up going back a couple times during my trip for some more.
After this filling meal, I was feeling a little sleepy. I didn’t want to take a nap just yet though, so I wandered the streets looking at the funky buildings and street art. Here are a couple pictures I captured:
After an hour of wandering, and a brief stop to the Reykjavik Phallological museum (I’m not going to include pics of that), I was thoroughly exhausted; I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours, and it was finally time for a small nap… Or a long nap, as it ended up turning out. Thankfully, I had thought ahead and set an alarm for 6 p.m, just in case this happened. I didn’t want my sleep schedule to be completely thrown off for the rest of the trip. When I woke up, I walked right across the street to a little french fry shop, Reykjavik Chips. The fries were so good! Crisp on the outside, and nice and fluffy on the inside. There was a whole bunch of sauces to choose from, and I went with sweet mustard.
When I finished, it was time to head to my pick-up location for the Northern Lights Tour by Reykjavik Excursions. We drove an hour to a remote location, and gazed up at the sky hoping for something to appear. We stayed out for a while, and I had almost lost hope. The sky was quite cloudy, which would have made it hard for us to see the lights. But, lo and behold, it finally started to clear up and the lights shone through!
I am so glad I was able to see the lights. The way they moved.. it was almost like they were alive. I’ll admit, I actually teared up while watching them. The lights lasted about 15 minutes, and then we finally headed back to Reykjavik. I got home at about 1 a.m., and immediately went to bed.
I usually wake up quite early, but this day I slept until 9 am. I headed over to the Hallgrimskirkja and met a group for an official tour of the city through I Heart Reykjavik. The tour guide is actually the fiance of the blogger who runs the I Heart Reykjavik site! He showed us around the downtown area, and thankfully there weren’t too many repeated areas from when I had gone exploring the previous day. My favorite part of the tour was seeing all the amazing street art!
After the tour, we let off near the Old Harbor. I had purchased a combo tour, so I would be doing a whale watching cruise in an hour. I picked up a hot dog from the famous hot dog stand Bæjarins Beztu, and walked along the harbor.
When it was time to begin the tour, I was told that we would not be departing from the Old Harbor because the water was too rough. Instead, we were bussed to another location about 45 minutes away. Unfortunately, the cruise was awful. The water was still rough there, and there was not a single whale to be seen. On top of that, pretty much every one on board got very seasick, so we were all just clutching barf bags and trying to wait out the 2 hour boat ride. I know this was just extremely bad luck, but it was still pretty disasppointing. At least the view was pretty nice!
When we got back, I decided to settle my stomach with a nice long walk in the fresh air. I chose to take the Sculpture and Shore Walk and it was absolutely lovely.
On the way home, I stopped at a little place called Vitabar, and grabbed a burger. I usually eat vegetarian at home, but I was doing an awful job in Reykjavik. *Sigh*
At this point, it was about 5 p.m., and it was getting dark. I went back to my AirBnb with the intention of reading, but ended up falling asleep. I really let that jet lag get the better of me… Anyways, I woke up at about 11:30 p.m., and was starving again. I saw that there was a nearby restaurant that only sold soup in bread bowls, which I thought sounded interesting. I made it there, and they said that they had stopped serving food, and were only serving drinks. So, I wandered up and down Laugavegur looking for anywhere that was open and finally found a little pizza shop. Great job Victoria, your food of the day consisted of a hot dog, a hamburger, and a pizza. Let’s get a round of applause for that authentic eating… Haha.
The next morning, I decided to try out a little bakery that I had learned about in my city tour. They opened at 6 a.m., so I headed over there first thing in the morning. Oh. My. God. The inside of the bakery smelled soooo good! I meant to just pick up one pastry, but ended up taking these home:
They look good, and they taste even better. I ended up going back to the bakery the next day, and I am actually craving their Danishes right now.
Anyways, I headed over to a pick-up spot for a Southern Shores group excursion. I don’t really enjoy group tour sorts of things, but I never learned to drive (I might explain why in a later blog post) – so on a solo trip, tours are really my only option. The tour was actually really fun, but it did feel like the stops were really rushed. My boyfriend and I are planning on coming to Iceland together some day, and we will really take our time then. 🙂 Anyways, here are some pictures from that day!
Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, and I was actually able to walk behind the waterfall! It was quite chilly and wet, but definitely a cool experience.
The next waterfall we headed to was Skógafoss; you couldn’t walk behind it, but it was so beautiful & powerful.
We set off to my favorite part of the entire tour: the Sólheimajökull Glacier. It was so beautiful! I just wanted to gaze at it forever… But, it was also sad seeing how much it has shrunk over the years. It is projected that the glacier will be gone in 150 years.
Isn’t that so beautiful? Definitely one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.
When we finished at the glacier area, we stopped at a nearby town for some food. I ate quickly, because I wanted time to check out the beach right behind the restaurant.
We ended up driving to another area of the same beach right afterwards, so I was able to get my fill of the seascape. I really loved the sand, tinted black by volcanic ash.
We stopped at one more place; the Skógar Folk Museum. I didn’t get any pictures of the inside, but it was interesting seeing all the old Icelandic artifacts. There was a section downstairs where you could see fossilized bird eggs, which was so cool!
The tour was over, so we headed back to Reykjavik. I stopped by a noodle shop and picked up dinner before heading back to the apartment, tired.
This was my last full day in Iceland, and I spent it on the Hot Golden Circle tour with Gateway to Iceland. This was by far my favorite day; the driver was amazing and told us so much about Icelandic history, and the destinations were stunning. The first place we went was to Þingvellir National Park, where we were actually able to walk between tectonic plates!
We made a brief stop by a waterfall, and then headed to the Geysir park, where I was able to see Strokkur go off three times!
We finished up the day with a soak in the Secret Lagoon. I was nervous about the public showering, but it ended up not being that big of a deal. The soak itself was incredible; so steamy, and I felt incredibly relaxed afterwards. I don’t have any pictures of the Secret Lagoon, because at that point it had gotten quite dark.. and I didn’t want to take flash photography and ruin everybody’s peaceful experience!
This was the day I departed Iceland.. at this point, I had fallen utterly in love with the country, and did not want to leave. Before heading to the airport, I stopped at Cafe Loki again and tried one of their Icelandic Platters – rye with herring, rye with mashed fish, and rye bread ice cream (lots of rye!).
After breakfast, I walked to the BSI bus terminal, and transported to the airport. It was time to go home…
I really hope you enjoyed the pictures! I plan on writing more posts about my trip, but I really wanted to do a photo-journal. If you have any questions about my trip, please ask below! 🙂