Trip Recap: Iceland

Iceland is one of those places that you always dream about going to, but usually never get there. At least it is for me. I personally have been fascinated with Iceland for years, but honestly I would never go on vacation there. The flights are just too expensive, and there are so many other places to visit in the world.

So, I was so thrilled to find out that on my way home from Germany last month, I was able to schedule a 3-day stopover in Reykjavik for no additional cost. And this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. A free flight and sponsored accommodation? Yes, please. :)

And you know what? It was one of the highlights of 2012. Not only did I love my visit there, but I would absolutely go there again as a stand-alone trip. There’s so much more I want to see of the country. That being said, here are the highlights of my short visit.

Accommodation

I landed around 5pm on a Friday evening, and it was already pitch black. At this time of the year in Iceland, the sun rises at 11am and sets around 3:30pm. The international airpot is about an hour away from Reykjavik, but there are plenty of shuttle companies that can take you into the city at a reasonable price (there is no public transportation, and a taxi would be costly). I took Grayline, and it ended up costing me $16.93 (2.200 ISK) to get to my hotel.

Speaking of my hotel, the wonderful owners at the Grettir Guesthouse made my stay pleasant and comfortable. During the winter months when tourist season is a little slow, they take long-term boarders as well as short-term guests. This is great because the people there treat the home with respect, and nobody is up partying late at night. There is someone who lives in the basement suite who looks after the house, so if you ever need anything, somebody is just steps away to help out.

I also thought that the Grettir Guesthouse had a great location. Right in the heart of the city, and just steps from the main shopping street. I liked that it was set back from the street because it was nice and quiet at night. :)

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Northern Lights

I was prepared for the Northern Lights. I booked myself into a tour, bought myself a super light travel tripod, and even gave myself a refresher on how to shoot long exposures on my Canon G10. Unfortunately, my tour got cancelled due to poor visibility. I was pretty upset… and that’s one of the big reasons why I want to go back to Iceland one day. Or at least a place where I’ll have a good shot at capturing the Northern Lights. One day. :)

Þingvallavatn

We caught a glimpse of the largest natural lake in Iceland. So beautiful!

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A church and some houses in Þingvellir National Park – which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in southwest Iceland. It was really in the middle of nowhere.

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The Golden Falls

This waterfall is located in the Hvítá River Canyon. It was so cold that I could only take a few pictures!

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I hiked a little farther down the canyon than everyone else in the tour group, and when I looked behind me (to make sure the bus hadn’t left without me), this is what I saw! The best thing about Iceland is how pretty all my photos turned out -without any editing or colour correction. :)

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Strokkur Geyser

This was so incredible to see in person, because I’ve never seen a geyser before. The eruptions from the Strokkur Geyser (which happen every 5-8 minutes) can blast boiling water up to 70 metres in the air.

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Now here it is, in between eruptions.

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Walking back from the Strokkur Geyser, there were many smaller geysers along the way. Oh, and if you’re wondering, this picture was taken around 4pm.

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The Blue Lagoon

This excursion was one I debated about for a really long time. Was it worth it to pay €33 for the entrance fee? It seemed pretty expensive, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t go. Having the Northern Lights tour cancelled meant I could spend that money on the entrance fee, which made me feel a little bit better. :)

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa, and the water temperature is about 40C – so it was super comfortable as long as you stayed in the water. There were even people in toques in the lagoon!

Oh, and I froze my butt off taking these photos! That’s why they’re not the nicest quality – my iPhone was more easily accessible.

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Well, there you have it! My visit to Iceland in photos. Going through all these photos really makes me wish I were back in Iceland right now. But I guess I’ll just have to add it to the list. :)

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

16 comments

  1. I hope to get to icleand later this year as well. The good thing is, it’s a work related trip meaning travel and accommodation are free plus, I would be there for a few months, yeah! Your pictures really just make me want to get there more. Crossing my fingers it works out.

  2. Looks like a great time! Love your pictures.

  3. Great pictures! How expensive was Iceland in comparison to all your other trips?

    • It was shockingly expensive. At least the food was. I think sushi cost me the equivalent of $30, fish and chips were $18, and a plate of traditional Icelandic food (and a small beer) came to about $35. :| I saved money by buying my own breakfast, lunch, and snacks – and then splurging on dinners. I didn’t buy any souvenirs, and the excursions were around the same price as anything else in Europe IMO.

  4. Eeeeeeeeee…this is where I’ve wanted to go for the last year! Phenomenal. :)

  5. It always amazes me how gorgeous pictures of Iceland are. So cool that you were able to pop over there.

    If you were able to go back for a whole week, what would you do?

    Alice

  6. Wow, your photos during Iceland’s winter look amazing! I was there this past August, and loved it, but dealt with quite a few wet and gray days – still had an amazing trip though – everything in the summer is so green, and the number of waterfalls were ridiculous. Were you able to make it to the Iceberg lagoon? If not, make sure to do so when you (hopefully) make it back to Iceland in the future! Did you happen to come across any of the free range sheep? I curious where they all go in the winter there, as there were sooo many of them just walking around everywhere outside of the city when I was there.

    • No, I didn’t get to the Iceberg Lagoon – but I really wanted to get out to see the ocean. Fingers crossed that I’ll eventually make it back to Iceland one day. I didn’t see any free range sheep, but was definitely on the lookout for them. But then again, I didn’t really walk much – just to the harbour area in town, and then was on excursions the rest of the time.

  7. I actually find the flights pretty cheap from Halifax, NS (and it’s only a 4.5 hr flight!) so hope to make it there this fall. Pondering a stop over there then moving on to another European city, but we’ll see where I end up.

    Love the photos!

  8. This is definitely the trip that I’m most jealous of. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous and I would have paid 33 euros in the blink of an eye to visit the Blue Lagoon

  9. If you went in the summer next time would the Northern Lights be visable? I always thought they were a winter thing.

    • Yes, that’s true. It is a winter thing. I do want to see the Northern Lights once in my life, but perhaps I can do that in Northern Canada somewhere. I’d much rather see Iceland in the summer, than go again in winter.

  10. Definitely worth adding to the list. Snow is such a love it or hate it thing.

    As for the northern lights, I am living on the Arctic Ocean in Paulatuk (in the Northwest Territories) right now and we have been having beautiful lights for the past two weeks. Photographing them, even as a beginner is quite the thrill. When you get the first wisps in a shot it’s so exciting. I’ve been posting a few of them on my blog. They are definitely not professional but I’m doing my best.

    A good setting, for your future shooting, would be Shutter: 30 seconds; F-stop 3.5, ISO anywhere from 250 to 800 depending on how grainy your camera gets on the higher end :)

    http://nestandacre.typepad.com/blog

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