Iceland is roughly three-quarters of the way between England and Greenland, and sits directly on top of the Eurasian and North American plates. The activity of these two plates is what formed Iceland and what gives it its geothermal nature. The land itself is mostly made up of lava rock, making the landscape look barren and drastic.
We spent a total of 39 hours in Iceland and although we flew into Reykjavik we didn’t spend much time in the city. Instead, we rented a car to make the most of our limited time. There is so much to see in Iceland and we didn’t want to spend our days in a country notorious for its nature, cooped up in its most populous city. So we chose to do things all within a days trip of Reykjavik.
We literally hit the ground running when we landed; picking up the car and heading straight for the Blue Lagoon. You must pre-book the Blue Lagoon, you can’t just show up and expect to get in. We booked our visit for the night we got there, a) to save us time in the following day to do more things and b) we thought we might get extremely lucky and the skies would be clear and we’d be able to see the northern lights, but unfortunately it was cloudy and we had no such luck.
Saturday we were up early and in the car heading south. We had plans to drive down to Vik, stopping a few places along the way; but as warned, the weather quickly changed, and with it our plans.
The scenery along the way was worth the drive alone, I couldn’t stop taking photos. One side of the road reminded me (Bry) of home, the flat barren landscape resembling the arctic tundra; not a tree higher than a foot, in sight. Then, out the window on the other side of the car, the landscape was so drastically different, with mountains jutting out of flat lands and waterfalls running between crevasses; reminding us both so much of parts of New Zealand.
Our first stop was Skogafoss Waterfall, 148 km (about 2 hours) Southeast of Reykjavik city centre.
When we got to Skogafoss, the rain was still holding off, but the wind was already blowing strong. We were lucky to arrive while there weren’t a lot of tour groups. So, of course, I took as many photos as Will’s patience could handle, and in his defence, it was a lot of photos. But you just never know which ones are going to be good until you get back and see them on the computer, so I just like to make sure we have … a lot of options.
Couples Photo Tip:
When looking for someone to take a photo of the two of you, look for someone with a similar or better camera to yours because a) they’ll know how to handle yours, and b) chances are they’re photography skills are equal to or greater than yours, so you’re almost guaranteed the photo you want or maybe an even better one (like the one below).
We then walked the 433 steps to the top of the waterfall where we got a panoramic view of the area. It was stunning, there were so few people around, and I know I’m repeating myself but again, the land was so barren; it was beautiful.
Our next stop was the abandoned plane wreck on Solheimasandur Beach, and this would be as far as we would get.
The DC 3 wreck on Solheimasandur beach had been popping up on our Instagram and Pinterest for a while before our trip, and it was first on our list of places we wanted to see. Sadly, with social media these days, we feel it won’t be long before the wreckage is no longer secluded and lonely but rather surrounded by tourists. They’ve already put in a make-shift parking lot at the beginning walking path. So we wanted to see it before it possibly becomes one of Iceland’s bigger tourist attractions.
The walk to the plane is an 8km round trip and by the time we started walking the wind had picked up, it was starting to spit rain, and we could see what looked like a storm on its way. But we went anyway, no questions about it, we weren’t coming to Iceland and not seeing this plane.
Now, I (Bry) have lived in Lethbridge, Alberta (one of the windiest cities in Canada) for four years and have never experienced wind like we did on this walk. A small adult could have done a trust fall and not hit the ground because the wind would probably have kept them upright. It was insane! But totally worth it.
We walked the 4km to the plane in about 50 minutes, give or take, and were so cold we had to huddle in what was left of the body to warm up as best we could.
We have no idea how busy it is on a good day, or even if it’s ever busy but when we were there, there were only 5 others. And by the time we warmed up enough to take some photos it was only us and two others so we were able to get some good photos.
When we finally got back to the car it was raining, and the wind had picked up a lot more ( so much so it rocked the car back and forth), and we could no longer see the hills that weren’t too far away from us because of the fog. It wasn’t exactly the best weather to be heading to the beach in. So, soaking wet, chilled to the bone and wind burnt we decided to head back towards Reykjavik in search of a place to warm up and grab some lunch.
After warming up with the second best hot chocolate we’ve ever had (behind Ferburger in Queenstown, NZ of course) and super satisfied with our meal, we went to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, about 10 minutes from Skogafoss. We then decided to go inland and head towards Gullfoss and Strokkur Geyser, hoping we’d get there before it got too dark. We got to Strokkur just as the sun was almost set, watched it erupt a few times then called it a night and headed home.
We were meant to go on a northern lights tour but it was cloudy, rainy, and super windy, so unfortunately it was cancelled. Instead, we finished off the night trying traditional Icelandic dishes at Íslenski Barinn (Icelandic Bar).
Thursday night, because we stayed late at the Blue Lagoon, we had a hard time finding anywhere still serving food. So we grabbed some late night hot dogs at Reykjavik’s ‘famous‘ Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, just a small stand on the corner of Trayggvagata and Posthusstraeti, that during the day, draws crowds that line up around the block!
Apparently trying the hot dogs in Iceland is a must; what’s in them and how they’re made, we have no idea, but boy are they good. The place’s topping options are crispy fried onions, finely diced raw onions, ketchup, hot dog mustard (that’s dark brown and slightly sweet) and a remoulade, and as a combination is simply delicious. Although Will opted for no sauce, I highly recommend asking for everything. And get two, they’re rather small.
Friday lunch was spent trying desperately trying to warm up at Hotel Skogafoss’s Bistro Bar, the restaurant at Skogafoss Falls. We were reluctant to eat there, thinking it would just be simple cafe food but we were happily surprised. They had Arctic Char (!!!) on the menu! Something I have not been able to have since I was a kid living in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
Will had the lamb and I (gleefully) had the char. The food was outstanding; we can honestly say the lamb was one of the best we’ve ever had, and the char was cooked absolutely perfect.
For dinner we went to Icelandic Bar or Íslenski Barinn, a small gastropub type of place in the city centre, that did modern takes on traditional dishes. Here we tried Icelands infamous fermented shark dish, which was …. how can I put this nicely … Ok … well, there is no nice way to put it, so let’s just say i’d rather eat bugs off of a dodgy food truck on Khao San Road in Bangkok, than eat another piece of fermented shark.
We also tried dried haddock which was actually quite nice spread with Icelandic butter (how it’s eaten by locals), as well as Puffin, Whale, and, for a bit of normality, a lobster-dog.
Our flight home on Saturday was early so we didn’t have time to do anything else. If you’re a nature junkie, Iceland is the place for you. We highly recommend renting a car to get around, you’ll have a lot more freedom and can change you’re plans easier depending on the weather. Next time I think we’ll rent a camper van and definitely stay longer!
Until next time Iceland.