Iceland has been on my radar for a long time because I wanted to see the Northern Lights and visit the Blue Lagoon. Being deceived by the name and fearful of the cold, I waited and waited and waited. But when I saw a flight deal from WOW airlines (a European budget airline) for $99 one way, I pounced. And I’m so glad I did! I loved Iceland so much, I plan to go back again.
Here’s a quick recap…
I booked my flight through WOW Airline for $245. There is no online check-in so you have to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before departure. The flight out of BWI was almost perfect…the return, not so much. Actually, both flights were fine. But the check-in process for the return flight at KEF airport was kinda bootleg and we left over an hour late.
I did not rent a car. I explored by foot and tour. Iceland winter is brutal and their roads are subject to unpredictable weather so I didn’t trust myself driving.
I stayed in the Center Hotel Klopp and paid around $360 for 4 nights (including a basic European breakfast). My hotel was city center and one block from the Main Street, which made it very easy to explore the city by foot. The “Center Hotels” is a popular chain in Reykjavik, Klopp is mid-range in quality, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.
That’s about where the deals end. Iceland is expensive! Credit cards are accepted everywhere, even to buy a cup of coffee or food from a street stand. The exchange rate is approximately $1 = 128 krona. Sounds great, right? But that doesn’t mean a thing when a cocktail is $15. Sheesh!
2. I only visited 3 regions, but based on what I saw, the country is beautiful. The city of Reykjavik is very clean and walkable, the water and air are refreshing, and I felt very safe being solo.
3. The people are VERY nice. It’s a chill, laid back culture. They drink A LOT, there are bars EVERYWHERE, and they hang out ALL night long. LOL! I didn’t see many brown people, but it was nice to be treated as an individual without any stereotypical assumptions based on race.
4. Do the CityWalk Reykjavik walking tour (http://citywalk.is/). It’s #1 on Trip Advisor and will help you to familiarize yourself with the city streets and Icelandic history. The tour is technically free, but you pay whatever you think it’s worth at the end. The owner/guide was friendly, entertaining, and knowledgeable, so I paid 1,000 krona – less than $10. He also became my unofficial point of contact in the city, which was unexpected icing on the cake.
5. Reykjavik must see/do: visit the historical Hallgrímskirkja church (views from top are stunning), perlan, harpa building, sun voyager sculpture, national museum, national gallery, and penis museum. Yes, you read that correctly. Also, try the lamb and skyr, and eat a hot dog from the street stand. Oh, and enjoy a night out – restaurants turn into nightclubs after midnight.
6. Tours: Based on my experience, I’d highly recommend the Blue Lagoon (BL), Golden Circle, South Shore Adventure, and of course, the Northern Lights (NL). My very first stop was at the BL via flybus transport from the airport-BL-hotel. Enjoy ALL amenities, have a cocktail (2 free with the premium package), and have lunch at the LAVA restaurant. FYI – the BL is closed Jan 5-21 for construction. I also made NL reservations for my first night because sightings aren’t guaranteed. If you don’t see them, you can go again each night until you do (up to 3x). I used Reykjavik Excursions for all tours.
7. I found myself saying “WOW” every single day. I was in awe whenever I witnessed God’s art work. From the natural hot springs to the geysers, waterfalls, ice glaciers, and northern lights…SIMPLY AMAZING!
8. My absolute favorite experience that will forever be etched in my travel memory bank? Climbing to the top of an ice glacier! As many of you know, I had major surgery last year and could barely walk. I never imagined this would be possible exactly 12 months later. So after I made it to the top and looked around at the expansive landscape, I said to myself… “look at God!”#bucketlist #travelgoals
9. I can’t wait to go back in the summer so I can visit thermal pools that the locals frequent (Blue Lagoon is a tourist trap but worth a visit), go snorkeling, ride horses, and truly enjoy the black sand beach.
10. But wait…did I say Iceland was expensive? Ok good. :-)