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.
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. :)
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. :)
We caught a glimpse of the largest natural lake in Iceland. So beautiful!
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.
The Golden Falls
This waterfall is located in the Hvítá River Canyon. It was so cold that I could only take a few pictures!
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. :)
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.
Now here it is, in between eruptions.
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.
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.
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. :)