I kicked off my 2016 Summer Europe trip in Iceland with a few of my best friends from college, and I am SO excited! Many people I know have actually been here before since tickets from the U.S. can be a steal with flexible dates. Luckily, we found some great deals for post-graduation dates and we jumped on the opportunity!
We flew to Reykjavík (the capital of Iceland) from Washington D.C. on a red-eye flight, and arrived very early the next morning after accounting for the 4 hour time difference. We spent an entire day just in Reykjavík, exploring the quaint little town that is ironically very grey given how colorful the rooftops of homes and buildings are. Many of the popular sites are reachable by foot, including the famous Hallgrimskirka Church, Harpa Concert Hall, and Sun Voyager Sculpture. We also roamed the streets, popping into small shops and checked out a restaurant for lunch and dinner. A trip to Iceland is incomplete without some great seafood and traditional Icelandic cuisine. We tried everything from fresh, wild-caught salmon and dried fish with butter, to lamb dogs (hot dog buns stuff with shredded lamb meat), Skyr yogurt, and fermented shark. I would classify Icelandic food as a haven for food enthusiasts with a love for unique and unusual delicacies.
On another note, the weather, unfortunately, was much colder than we expected since we were also surprised with strong winds and sporadic rain. I layered a crop top under my striped, cropped sweater, and kept a flannel handy in case I got cold. I also wore my comfiest pair of black jeans, since it was way too chilly to wear any of the skirts and shorts I packed for the rest of my trip. You probably wouldn't expect that Iceland is a warm country given its name, so seriously, check the weather and pack accordingly!
Tips, Tricks, and Fyi's - Walk instead of taking the public buses. In my opinion, this is always the best way to get to really know a city. Public transportation is a bit confusing given the number of bus lines and routes, and it isn’t very cheap either (around $4 USD/ride). Basically, book your accommodation closer to the city center if possible
- Take the Flybus from the Keflavik airport to the BSI bus terminal. It’s the fastest way (about 45 minutes), and one of the cheapest options ($22 USD), unless you are renting a car. You can get a ticket at arrival for the same price as booking in advanced.
Reykjavík and Iceland, in general, have become much more popular travel destinations in recent years. If you’ve spent hours reading blogs and reviews online like I have, then you know the Blue Lagoon is a must-see on any trip to the country. I had seen many pictures on Instagram or on travel websites of the Blue Lagoon, but I became more curious about it when we finally had the chance to go. The water is actually runoff from the geothermal plant next door, and the lagoon was man-made, despite popular belief. The water is said to have many minerals, making it great for your skin. You even get a free algae mask that comes with your ticket (someone comes around in the water and asks if you would like to try the mask).
The Blue Lagoon (or as my friend calls it, the Goo Lagoon from Spongebob) was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up after an exhausting night on the plane and a sleepless day. The water is so warm and relaxing, and their facilities are clean and efficient. You’ll be provided with shampoo, conditioner, and have access to hairdryers along with clean shower facilities. A locker is included with your admission, which can be accessed using an electronic bracelet given when you check-in or purchase your ticket.
If you are coming from the airport during a layover or kick-starting or ending your trip in Reykjavík, you can store your luggage for a small fee. It’s only around 25 minutes from the airport versus 45 minutes from Reykjavik, so stopping by when you’re near the airport is actually a great idea. They really make it easy for visitors by accommodating for transportation and luggage. I would give yourself 3-4 hours here from finish to end, so plan accordingly!
Tips, Tricks, and Fyi's
- Condition your hair before and try not to get your hair wet; apparently, the minerals in the water are very drying, so to prevent your hair from feeling like straw after, lather up the conditioner and use a hair-tie
- Book in advance! Sometimes, certain time slots are booked out and you don’t want to arrive in your bathing suit and be denied access because it is too overcrowded
- Towel rentals cost extra, so bring your own if you don’t want to pay those few extra bucks
- Find the sauna and enjoy! Many people miss the sauna at the Lagoon, since it's a bit hidden behind one of the bridges and is not very obvious; a good 15-20 minute steam is all you need to feel rejuvenated