When most people say they are spontaneous, they mean that they will change their coffee order or maybe if they’re feeling crazy they will take a day off work or change their schedule up. While I do all of that too, I took my spontaneity to new levels with one of my best friends , Sophia, when we saw cheap airfare this summer.
We saw tickets with an unbeatable price, so we booked a trip and just went to explore the vast beauty that is Iceland. We kept our trip short and cheap, staying at a beautiful (joint) Airbnb on the edge of Reykjavik (the capitol city). A shared Airbnb means my friend and I shared one bedroom, and there was four other bedrooms with other backpackers staying. Although we cooked for two of the nights, buying food from the local grocery store (to keep the cost down), we only briefly ran into any of the guests. The Airbnb was clean, basic, and had a pretty window with light canceling shades to fight the 22 hour days of Icelands summer months.
Although we went in the summertime, the weather was in the mid 60s and overcast for the most part. If you are an intense backpacker, want to explore glaciers in detail, or plan to do the entire “Golden Circle” in Iceland, I would recommend booking your stay for two weeks. However, to get a taste of the country and experience a large majority of the features you would not need more then 5 days, which is what I did.
(June 10) We flew directly to Iceland from Newark Airport in New Jersey and then took a long bus ride to Reykjavik. Upon arriving we took a nap and settled in before deciding to walk around and explore the city. Coming from NYC, we were both shocked by how quiet and empty the city seemed. To us, it was more of a bustling busy town. Tourism is clearly one of their largest revenues where some streets were lined with shops selling hand made sweaters, shot glasses and more. We were not accustomed to the 22 hour days and ended up walking around very late into the night seeing adorable buildings. We also went to the grocery store where we bought pasta and sauce to cook up that night.
(June 11) The next day we took a bus to a few key points of Iceland such as Pingvellir National Park where there was amazing views of Iceland’s countryside and a large spread of walking paths that we spent a few hours exploring. We started that adventure overviewing the landscape from a viewing platform before venturing down into the “valley” like area and walking around. The next stop was Thingvellir National Park. A gigantic waterfall with a large downward walk to take where you get sprayed by the water, and can walk to an outcropping that just short of emerges you in the mist. There was a restaurant here we ate at too.
(June 12) We explored the city more, finding an amazing record shop that I actually bought a Meatloaf record at (for my dad). We also found a number of coffee houses and sat in one for a while enjoying mochas and seeing other tourists interact. (As New Yorkers, we felt right at home in a coffee shop!) One of the coolest buildings in Reykjavik was the Harpa Concert hall which we spent a large amount of time in, walking around and exploring because of its ultra modern architecture, and overall interesting vibe. There was an excellent view of the harbor from one spot we stopped in the concert hall where we could see the boats passing by. We spent some time of the day exploring food options such as going to an “iconic”, according to Sophia, hot dog stand, a restaurant that only sells food on top of French fries and beer, and got amazing ice-cream.
(June 13) Wednesday we opted to do another, longer bus tour. In past trips, I have cringed away from guided tours thinking that they are tacky and boring, however it is very cost and time efficient and for Iceland at least, I think it is worth it. Driving in a foreign country was intimidating, car rentals were expensive, and Iceland is very spread out and the idea of driving a few hours to get to locations/having to navigate them was not for us, so taking these buses was an awesome way to experience the key features of the island. As I said in the beginning of the post, if you want a more expensive and immersive hiking experience, definitely rent a car and book a longer trip.
Anyway, on this bus tour, the first stop was Skogafoss Waterfall. You could walk all the way up to this waterfall but I wouldn’t recommend it because there are many other stops after this that you don’t want to be wet for. The next stop was Reynisfijara Beach. A tourist hot spot, this beach is all black pebbles with impressive stone arches and naturally forming rock outcroppings. Super breathtaking in person. At this stop we also had time to eat at a restaurant with a view of a beach. This stop also had amazing purple flowers and fields that went on and on. Next, we saw the most famous geyser which blew like clockwork, much to the enjoyment of the crowds.
This trip was an all day affair that was exhausting but worth it. We visited and walked along the base of a giant melting glacier which was very surreal. There was black sand surrounding it so only pieces of the bright bright blue reflective ice peeked through.
There was another waterfall, Shogafoss, where we ate at their foodcourt and walked underneath a natural cave and through a water drenched path. It was honestly breathtaking to be under a waterfall looking out. After the waterfall, we treated ourselves to donuts.
To finish this tour we stopped at a historical site with acres upon acres of open land surrounding it.
(June 14) On our last day we experienced the thing Iceland has gotten the most attention for, the Blue Lagoon. Known for its healing properties and of course its bright , and I mean, bright, vibrant blue colorist should definitely be on any travelers bucket list. When planning a trip, if you are staying in Reykjavik should do the Blue Lagoon on either the first or last day of your journey because its location is closest to the airport. This is the most touristy thing I experienced on the whole trip with a very streamlined process of checking bags, changing rooms that had lockers that only unlocked to your personalized armband, and a complimentary mud mask. We spent a few hours absorbing the healing benefits, floating around and of course taking pictures before using the facilities showers and taking a shuttle bus to the airport. We chose to do this on our last day because we figured it would be a nice way to end the trip, and I am glad we did it last instead of first like most people. Although the Blue Lagoon is breathtaking and one of a kind, I couldn’t imagine spending more then four to five hours there, so it was easy for us to fit it in on the same day we were flying out.
Overall the trip was short and cheap, but breathtaking. I was really happy to get to experience it with such an amazing friend of mine, and I owe most of the planning and logistics of the trip to her. (Love you Sophia.) If you want to see a post about how to pack/dress, or want more details about the tours or pricing feel free to drop me a comment below!!! I love hearing about your travels too.