If ever there were a bucket list destination to travel to, Iceland was amongst the top.
So when my friend & constant travel buddy from over the years suggested to me and our other travel bud heading to Iceland as our 2017 trip destination, it didn’t take me long to say yes! Iceland has become THEE destination to hit up over the past few years and it pretty much seemed like “everybody’s doing it”, so why not us? It’s pretty much the spot that EVERY photographer dreams of – beautiful blue lagoons, volcanos, rugged terrain, and epic waterfalls. Yup…I was definitely game for this trip!
We decided to head to Iceland in July. If you are looking to see the Northern Lights…this is not the time to go. But if you are looking for “warmer” weather, long days (think nearly 24 hours of daylight – the midnight sun), this is the time to go. It also tends to be a little more populated because it’s tourist season, but honestly, I never really felt like it was too crowded. We decided to do a counter-clockwise loop around the entire country along route one (or as our GPS navigation kept calling…”follow the one”! Sadly, we never found “the one” haha) that took us about 12 days.
What did we pack?
Layers, layers, layers! The temps ranged mostly in the 50-60s Fahrenheit while we were there, but could get quite blustery or wet depending on where exactly we were. I brought with me a waterproof windbreaker jacket, leggings, track pants, jeans, short sleeve tee, sweater, sweatshirt, flannel, beanie hat, sunglasses, sneakers, scarf, gloves, and some Sorell boots. The boots were a bit clunky/big for packing, so I would definitely recommend smaller/waterproof hiking boots.
Where did we stay?
I will just say…unless you are in a bigger city like Reykjavik there aren’t a ton of hotels or guesthouses in Iceland. I kept saying to myself while we were there, how vast and barren it seemed. Then I realized that there are roughly about 330,000 people spread over 40,000 square miles…and when you compare that to St Petersburg, Florida (where I live) and there are roughly 260,000 people within 160 square miles…the comparison really makes you go wow! Lol. But if I were to suggest anything, book early if you want quality accommodations before they book up (because there aren’t many!) and finding an Airbnb is the way to go! If you want a $40 travel credit, click here.
Is Iceland expensive?
Yes, yes it is. While I know many have found quite the good deal on flights to Iceland, once you get here, food, lodging and transportation are all a bit pricey. One USD is equivalent to about 100 Icelandic Krona. Our Sixt SUV car rental (you know, so we can fit 3 gals, our luggage/camera gear, and traverse the F-roads), cost us about 154,000 ISK – or about $1540 at the cheapest we could find anywhere for the duration of our trip. A beer will likely cost your $10-15 each, so anticipate spending $45-80/meal eaten out at the minimum. Thus…we did a LOT of grocery shopping to make sandwiches and meals in at our place.
Day 1 + 2 | Reykjavik and the Golden Circle
After a full day of traveling and dealing with issues of being trapped at the Keflavik International Airport for a few hours after landing because of the shenanigans of Air Canada, we didn’t do a ton on our first day. We got groceries, took a nap, then headed into town to explore and do dinner. We first visited Hallgrímskirkja the amazing church that is a staple view in town (It’s 9,000 ISK to go to the top), and I HIGHLY recommend it for the view!
Next, we stopped for a late dinner at a cute little restaurant in downtown Rekjavik called – Íslenski barinn. I had some of the most amazing fruit beer there and their food was pretty great too (even for the picky eater)!
We finished our first day in Iceland at the Sólfar –The Sun Voyager sculpture as we watched the sun set over the city (at like 11:20 PM at night! Haha.)
On day two we headed towards the Golden Circle and Þingvellir National Park. As we traveled along, we got to see just how prominent the sheep population was in Iceland. Yeah…they pretty much rule the road. haha.
We saw a big geyser blow and little geysers bubble at Strokkur.
Then we headed towards our first set of waterfalls in Iceland – Gullfoss Falls. These “golden falls” are definitely a site to see and I can see why this iconic spot is a top spot to hit by tourists.
And if you didn’t already know…my friends and me love to get some good “jumping photos” in whenever we are on the road, so while we paused for a break, we had to get in our jumps! haha.
Now even with waterfalls, geysers and all kinds of magnificent terrain, I’m not gonna lie…probably my favorite moment on this day was getting our first experience with the Icelandic horses. They are seriously some of the prettiest ponies I ever did see! And tip…they love it when you pick fresh grass for them to eat that they can’t reach on the other side of the fence. *wink, wink*.
After our visit with the horses, we started our trek towards our next guesthouse in Selfoss. We stopped by an adorable church with a red steeple (you see so many of these along the hillside as you drive), and at another waterfall close to our hotel before we finally made it to our resting grounds for the evening. We stayed at the Hotel Vatnsholt and it was quite lovely! If had been in Iceland during the Northern Lights, I would definitely recommend this place as a great spot to stay and view them!
PS, the “midnight sun” was still something I just couldn’t get over. It was such an amazing sight to see! These images are from the 23:00 hour…so crazy!
Day 3 | South Iceland
We started day 3 traversing towards Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls in the southern region of Iceland. The wind was a bit strong that morning so the climb alongside of it was pretty wet & slippery. If I had known better I would have gotten the angle from behind the falls! Such a pretty view from what I’ve seen!
The fields of purple lupine flowers across the way from these waterfalls were amazing, so I, of course, made the girls pull over so we could get some photos in the field with the waterfalls behind us.
Next waterfalls that we hit up were Skógafoss. We did the steep climb up alongside it to the top of the falls and were rewarded with a gorgeous rainbow in the mist.
Let me say though…some of my favorite views though were from the foot of the falls. To see the comparison of a person to the massiveness of the falls just puts its beauty into perspective!
Then we ventured to see the infamous Sólheimasandur plane wreck. This DC-3 navy plane crashed in Vik back in 1973 and the wreckage is actually a beautiful site to see (and thankfully everyone survived the crash). Something to keep in mind…the trek to the plane is quite the hike! Expect to walk about 1.5 hours EACH WAY! So pack some snacks & water in your backpack and have some good walking shoes! After walking on what seems like the rocky surface of the moon for an eternity (and even feeling like we are seeing mirages of the plane), you will arrive and it will be worth it!
And because you may need to take a break along the way to keep from going crazy on this walk, we stopped at one point for some silly photos. Haha.
After the plane wreck, we continued our counterclockwise tour of Iceland and stopped next at Dyrhólaey. The fog rolled in while we were checking out it’s loveliness and the “hole” completely disappeared for a bit! But thankfully the fog cleared and it was another stunning sight to see in south Iceland.
The black sand beaches of Vik…they made my heart happy!
We finished out day 3 traversing along our first F-road (you need a 4WD vehicle to go on these roads!) to the Fjadrargljufur Canyon where they filmed Game of Thrones. We’ll just say it was a wee bit scary at times, but well worth it! Because of said f-roads, we pretty much had the place to ourselves and it was fantastic!
Since this post is getting rather lengthy and I have quite a few more days of our Iceland trip to blog, I think this is a good pausing point until I share with you Part 2.
If you are planning a trip to Iceland and have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.