Iceland is one of the most amazing destinations I have ever visited, Iceland! Every time I sent someone there, they would come back raving about how it is the trip of a lifetime. This is a rundown of my trip. I was lucky enough to travel with 10 people from the local area. We all set out from Honesdale and traveled to Newark airport, from there we embarked on our new found journey on Iceland air. This is a no-frills airline for sure but it is a nice direct nonstop flight into Reykjavik. The flight was very quick taking only 5 hours, definitely a good thing because they do not have any meal services on board. If you wanted food you would have had to preorder it at least 48 hours in advance.
Day 1- Upon our arrival at the Reykjavik airport, we passed through passport control, collected our luggage and came out through the greeting hall. We then met our guide, Matthis. At this point we were ready to see what this adventure had in store for us. We then proceeded to the coach bus for the 45-minute transfer to our first hotel.
Since it was too early for check-in at the Foss hotel upon arrival, we went straight into the breakfast buffet. It was a pretty nice set up where we could choose from quite a variety. One thing I wanted to try was Skyr, this is Iceland's version of yogurt. It was pretty good, thicker and more sour than Greek yogurt. We then met in the lobby for our tour of the city. The tour featured Hallgrimskirkja Church, which is the town’s oldest building located in city hall. They were constructing a new street, we watched as the workers were laying pipe down. In this town all of the roads and sidewalks are heated by the geothermal water. The people in Reykjavik do not need to shovel nor plow snow because of this. The hotels are heated this way too. There are no thermostats in any of the rooms, if your room is too hot then you would just open the window.
On this evening we headed down to Faxafloi Bay to start our first hunt for the Aurora Borealis. Here they offer you warm coveralls when getting on the boat. You have a choice to sit on either the inside or outside. I, of course chose inside, why get cold if you don't have to. They gave us an informative tour about what causes the lights, where they might be and the signs of what to look for. We didn't see the lights this night but it was a nice trip. One of the benefits of taking this particular cruise is that if you do not see the lights you can retake the same cruise again for free.
Day 2- After eating another great breakfast, we were on our way to see what this day had in store for us. We set off to travel the Golden Circle. One of our stops was at an Unesco World Heritage site marking where the North American and European tectonic plates meet. It's a beautiful area that allows you to really see the beauty of Iceland.
Our next stop, was the geothermal fields of Geysir and Strokkur. It was an opportunity to do some shopping, grab a quick bite for lunch and see the Geysir (a geyser in Iceland) erupt. Since we only had daylight from 10am to 4pm we took off to the next natural wonder. We then visited Gullfoss, which is a double cascade waterfall that towers 100 feet high. Just before dusk we made a quick stop at Seljalandsfoss waterfalls. Here there is a wonderful opportunity to walk behind the falls if you are inclined to do so, probably not a wise idea in the winter. Next we traveled onward to Vik the location of our second hotel where we stayed for the next three nights. We searched again on this evening for the elusive northern lights but to no avail!
Day 3- On this day our adventure started at Iceland’s most dangerous beach, Reynisfjara. The waves seemed harmless at first sight, but would sneak up on you when you least expected. While we were there someone unexpectedly went for a swim. Fortunately, they made it out alright. I think that poor person would agree that sometimes the perfect picture is not so worth it. Reynisfjara is made of black volcanic sand and is surrounded by basalt formations and cliffs with caves. It is really something to see, the rocks reminded me of Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.
Next stop was the Skogar Folk Museum which contains an amazing number of Icelandic artifacts. I personally think the highlight of this stop was the turf-built homes, they really make you appreciate our modern houses we take for granted.
Right next door to the Museum is Skogafoss waterfalls. Here we got to see this waterfall from a different perspective. You could choose to climb the 750 steps to the top or stay at the bottom and watch the paragliders fly past. On this night, the weather did not want to cooperate, so our search for the lights was on a standstill.
Day 4- Next we traveled to Jokulsarlon Glacial lagoon. This is a stunning view of all the floating icebergs! After enjoying these beautiful views, we traveled across the road to Diamond Beach. Here we saw giant pieces of ice that really do look like giant diamonds. It is quite the scene with the sun reflecting off of them. We then traveled to Skaktafell which is the gateway to Vatnajokull National Park. This is the largest National Park in Europe so it is something to see. This National Park has Iceland’s highest mountains and the Vatnajokull glacier. For those with plenty of time you can explore the ice caves or do a glacial hike. Our group met later that night prior to dinner to try Iceland’s famous Hakarl (fermented shark) and “Black Death”. In the olden days they would bury the shark in the dirt, urinate on it and let it ferment for months. Nowadays, the fermenting process is not so primitive but still doesn't taste the best. One of the travelers said it tasted like old wet socks. The “Black Death” or Brennivin is a schnapps made from fermented potatoes and caraway. Not that I know what lighter fluid would taste like, but if I were to imagine, I believe it would taste similar to Brennivin. The buffet this night had samples of reindeer. Yeah…not so good. After dinner, we searched and searched, but we still could not find the Aurora Borealis.
Day 5- On this morning we drove towards the Reykjanes Peninsula. We ended up stopping at the Lava Exhibition Center. At this center, we learned of Iceland’s historic volcano eruptions and much more. We then proceeded to our next stop at the Blue Lagoon. Located in the middle of a lava field, this is a geothermal pool where we took a dip in the mineral rich water. This was a very relaxing afternoon and if you're ever adventuring in Iceland, do not miss out on this amazing experience! We then headed back to Reykjavik for our last night in Iceland, also our last chance to see the lights. After our farewell dinner, the group decided to head off to the hotel bar, it was a fun time had by all discussing the trip with our new-found friends. Being that our hotel was only two blocks away from the harbor, six of us decide to venture out in the cold for our final search of the northern lights. Finally, at 1:30am we had success! Seeing the northern lights was truly an amazing experience and they do in fact “dance” in the sky. In a few short hours we would start to make our way back home to Pennsylvania.
I can not tell you how much I enjoyed this trip. If you want to experience this vacation of a lifetime, please call me, and I will set it up for you. It is truly an amazing time!