A Few Days in Iceland : Pt 2 Choose Your Own Adventure
It's definitely no special kept secret anymore that Iceland is one of the hottest destinations for travelers all around the world. Breathtaking landscapes, geothermal hot pools, 2,500 year old glaciers, stunning waterfalls and natural geysers are just a handful of the very obvious reasons why so many are now putting Iceland to the top of their list. I've been lucky enough now to experience the country twice for a few days each time using the Stopover program through Icelandair. Here's a little overview of some of the day trips I took between both of those visits to give you an idea of what can be done in few days while in Iceland.
With a full night's rest and a bit of breakfast after your day of exploring Reykjavik, you're ready to experience some of this country's many beautiful and natural wonders - the number one reason why so many travel here! Renting a car is certainly an option if you have more time and want to take yourself off of the beaten path outside of the city, but just about any day trip or activity you'd like to sign on for has a shuttle pickup and drop off to your hotel, and one of the best parts is that they all run like clockwork! One of the first things that impressed me about this country. Now I certainly can understand that a bus tour may not be the ideal way to experience a new area for a lot of us that are used to exploring on our own schedule and interests, but trust me when I say everyone owes it to themselves to hop on a Golden Circle tour. Like most all other tours and day trips the morning will start with getting picked up right from your hotel and then driven around one of the most popular routes in the country. Your bus will bring you out to the immense Gullfoss waterfall, then to Geysir and Strokkur geysers, and Þingvellir National Park, plus one or two other stops depending on the weather and who you book with before getting dropped back off. If your time is limited this is hands down one of the best ways to see some of the "best of". Gullfoss alone is worth the trip. And if you're lucky the sun will be out enough to catch a rainbow over the falls! This country is known for some of the most impressive outdoor adventuring on the planet, so make the time and put the money aside to experience it.
There are a number of companies able to book all kinds of activities ranging from horse back riding, to whale watching and ice caving to private helicopter tours. Don't forget you're in Aurora country too, so keep an eye to the sky at night for nature's absolute best shows - the Northern Lights!
Once you have the Golden Circle under your belt and are craving more I strongly suggest also booking the Sensational Iceland - South Coast & Glacier Hike tour with Extreme Iceland. I booked with this company on both of my trips and each time and I still can not praise them enough. The guides were all extremely nice, very knowledgeable and have a good sense of humor too. You'll thank me later. This full day trip will bring you out to the Solheimajokull glacier, part of the fourth largest glacier covering the country, for an unforgettable hike and amazing panoramic scenery. Your shuttle will then bring you out to two more of the country's incredible and iconic waterfalls Skógafoss, and then Seljalandsfoss which you can walk behind. I'd definitely recommend a having a cheap poncho, or even better a waterproof jacket and pair pants to do this because you most certainly will be soaked after getting close to either of these. Then finally it's a stop at the Reynisdrangar Cliffs and walk along the Reynisfjara black sand beach before being dropped back off to your hotel in Reykjavik for another night on the town. The same tour is also offered with a Northern Lights safari addition to take your adventuring into the night. Of course it is dependent on weather conditions which can change very quickly in Iceland.
If you're on the more adventurous side of life then also consider a Trip to the Moon! Suit up and ride your own quad over more black sand beaches and right through a section of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge that separates the North American and European continents. The tour 100% lives up to it's title and you will definitely feel like you are driving on another planet. Since it's a bit hard and not recommended to drive one of these and take pictures at the same time (even though I did manage to take some shaky video with my phone during one stretch you can see HERE) this is the perfect excuse to buy yourself a Go Pro or borrow one from a friend. Don't worry, your guide will still make a few stops so you can get out and enjoy the landscape while sipping on some hot chocolate and snacking on some Icelandic doughnuts.
There is no need to return immediately to earth and reality so quick though. Rather than going straight back to your hotel after your ride, and if you didn't already do it after your flight in, I say take the optional drop-off to the Blue Lagoon and spend the rest of your afternoon soaking yourself away for a couple hours. Yes, there is an admission fee and you are charged for a towel and a locker, but after just a few minutes in the water all of your worries will wash away and you'll be very glad you decided to treat yourself. Try a refreshing silica mud mask. It makes a great photo op! And if you're thirsty, wade right up to the 'pool-side' bar and have yourself a drink all while you're relaxing in the geothermal blue water. There's no doubt about it, this is a very popular and commercialized tourist spot now and there will likely be a bit of a crowd, but even with that I will say that this is a must visit before you leave. There are other geothermal pools throughout the country worth visiting if you're able, but this one is certainly quite convenient. Once your fully cleansed hop a shuttle bus back to Reykjavik for one last go around town. After dinner you can hit those last couple bars you didn't get a chance to check out yet.
Without a doubt there is so much more to this amazing land that could never be seen and experienced in just a few short days. This is only a tiny little snapshot of what can be done in a very short time. But all the reason to make a longer stay or at least have plenty of reason to come back again! And of course, aside from just the sights, sounds and tastes, and like so many other destinations across the world, the people of Iceland make their country every bit as special and memorable. English is a second language and spoken virtually everywhere. Say "Halló" and strike up a conversation with a local. They are very friendly and will be happy to help you enjoy your time on their island and share in their history and folklore. There are just as many tales as there are things to see and do!
So save the money, make the time and take a trip to Iceland. And of course, be sure to bring your camera! (Check out my more of pictures HERE and HERE) It will be a trip of a lifetime that you'll never forget.
-Looking for ideas of what to do in Reykjavik? Check out the first part of my A Few Days in Iceland article with Pt 1 A Taste of Reykjavk