A Texas attorney and a country music recording artist from Nashville seem like an unlikely pair to tackle a wild, winter adventure in Iceland. But we’re not your typical southern broads. We left the makeup and the curlers at home to take an icy plunge, balls first into an authentic and unforgettable Icelandic experience. The rumors of Iceland’s incredible beauty were what got us dreaming about planning a trip. But besides wanting to check out all the awesomeness for ourselves, Ryan and I have recently started a new adventure company. What better way to build content for our new adventure business than a trip to Iceland?!
Day 1: Getting “Iceclaimated”
My heart is sayin’ YES but my body’s sayin’ NO! We couldn’t wait to get out there and explore, but…for real, y’all…that jet lag is no joke. A word of warning if you’re planning a trip to Iceland from the states; build in an extra day on the front end to sleep off the funk. We wish we had done this and definitely will next time. Every moment counts when you’re wanderlusters like us!
Our flight arrived in Keflavik around 4:20am. We took the Flybus to the Rekyjavik bus station and from there took a cab to pick up our camper van. BIG MISTAKE. We paid close to $75 USD just to get us across town! Live and learn. Our loss, your gain! Heed the advice, my friends.
We were a little early to the pick up our van. Approximately 6 hours early. Never have we lusted so passionately for a bed. So close but yet so far away. Despite our crabby state of exhaustion, the staff at GoIceland was incredibly friendly. They gave us some coffee and worked diligently to get us on our way as quickly as they could. Due to this office being in the process of moving, there was some lack in communication about the address we were supposed to pick up our vehicle. But, the staff more than made up for it by fully refunding us for our expensive cab ride, which was very generous. Jan at the office was hilarious, a really good hang. We’ll definitely be returning to rent a camper van with GoIceland, and we’ll be referring all our adventure clients to them as well. After loading up on food, we headed out into the darkness north to Fludir, where we discovered the Secret Lagoon. Incredible soak. We wound up driving just a little farther north to camp out near the geyser, Strokkur. We wound up staying in an empty hotel parking lot. We were thankful there were no security cameras, because we definitely peed out there. Sorry not sorry.
Day 2: The Adventures Begin
Off to a great start! 8am wake up call, and we have to pee SO bad…If only it weren’t for the staff trickling in that decided to park RIGHT next to us. The store and café didn’t open for another hour. Confession: GoIceland Camper Vans are GREAT for pretty much everything EXCEPT the pee pee dance.
Finally, alas. Sweet relief. By 9am bladders were empty and we were coffeed up for the adventure. Strokkur really is something else! Although, it took us almost an hour to find it. Yeah, we’re kind of embarrassed to admit that. We took this trail back to the camp ground (closed in the winter) and kept thinking that it looped around to the geothermal field where Strokkur was erupting. We went in and out TWICE thinking we had missed something before we finally realized that the main entrance to the walking path was only 25 meters away. Lame. Ha! I guess we weren’t nearly as caffeinated as we thought. In the video, you might perhaps see Ryan and I getting “surprised” by Strokkur. A Geyser with no bedside manner? You must be joking…
The adventured continued down the Golden Circle towards Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Skogafoss. On the way we stopped for a riverside photo op where I learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes you just have to wait your turn for the spotlight.
We got DRENCHED at Gulfoss and Seljalandsfoss, but the photos turned out incredible.
We also discovered this old boarded up haunted cave along the way, and just had to stop for a photo! Pretty creepy!
Our plan was to continue on up the southeast coast past Vik to Skaftafell glacier, Jökulsárlón, and Diamond Beach. Somewhere in between Vik and Skaftafell, mother nature began to call. And, I don’t mean the Iceland weather. Number 2 talk can be taboo, but let’s get real people. So, one of us had go. I won’t say who (changing names to protect the innocent). We’ll call this person Nancy. So, we did what any good human would do. We found a nice waterfall, parked the car, turned out the headlights, and handed Nancy the toilet paper (photo not included).
We arrived at a roadside pull out by the old bridge near Skaftafell National Park around midnight. Just when we were about to go to bed, the northern lights began to dance. These lights never lose their luster with us. We are so grateful at every opportunity we’ve had to admire their mysterious and exotic beauty. After the show it was definitely lights out!
Day 3: Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend
We got a late start as we stayed up past our bed time in order to watch the northern lights. We woke up with an incredible view of Skaftafell and made a point to stop at Jökulsárlón and Diamond Beach. We found a really cool secret lagoon as well along the way filled with icebergs and bits of glacier. We got dumped on, and all our gear got wet, but it was totally worth it. The views up the east coast are absolutely stunning. Ryan made the best sandwiches, which also helped us forget for a moment that we were wet and cold.
We continued on towards highway 1 and stopped around 7:30 to find a hot spring in Hoffell. It took us a while to find it in the dark, but we were the only ones there! Absolutely incredible! We were even able to take a geothermal shower and freshen up before heading on up the road to Höfn.
We ate an absolutely delicious meal at Kaffi Hornið in Höfn. We had heard that lamb was the best in Iceland, and the rumors are true! I had the lamb chops with root vegetables. Lamb-a-liciously incredible! Ryan had the lagustine pasta. Out of this world!
Following dinner, we proceeded to continue our drive up the east coast. Our last minute “let’s do the ring road” decision had us a little overly ambitious to get to Dettifoss by bed time. But our plan froze up along with all the ice on the roads. We drove all the way up to Brei∂dalsvik. We arrived at the turn off around 0:30, and we discovered that highway 1 was impassable through northern Iceland. I guess we wouldn’t be driving the ring road after all. We were both pretty disappointed for a few minutes that we had wasted the time and the fuel driving that far. We parked on a pull-out near a bird sanctuary for the night and woke up to the most incredible views!
Day 4: East Coast Driving and Seljavallalaug Hot Springs
In the morning light, we enjoyed a nice breakfast of eggs and oatmeal with a beach side view. The sun was golden as it was rising (for the first time on our trip so far). This was the most gorgeous day of our trip weather wise.
As we headed back down the east coast, we were stunned at every corner. Each curve in the road offered a more breathtaking view than the last. With the mountains to the west and the ocean crashing into the shore on the east, how could one go wrong?
We hardly saw any tourists most of the day until we got closer to the golden circle. We stopped to take in a few views that we missed on the way up. Black beach did not disappoint!
We discovered a local hike to a mountainside hot spring. Seljavallalaug. However, the water was only slightly warm. In fact to make it warmer we peed in it. No, we didn’t actually. But the cold plunge certainly elicited the urge.
We ended the day by cooking some Icelandic salmon underneath the beautiful show of northern lights. Total perfection. It doesn’t get any better than this. We continued our drive to Þingvellir National Park where we spent the night just inside the park at a pull off.
Day 5: Þingvellir & Hveragerði
We woke up to a pleasant surprise at our little Þingvellir parking spot. Cars upon cars were stopping at our van, practically leaning against it to take pictures of our lake view in the rain and fog. I mean, really? We were literally trapped. Nowhere to pee. Again. We sat with our legs crossed doing the pee pee dance for almost a half hour before we could even start the van and inch our way out of the parking spot so as not to hit someone with a camera. In our minds, sweet relief was just moments short of cutting the top off an empty water bottle and letting it all go. But we were lucky enough to find a spot just down the road. At lightning speed we yellowed the snow, taking turns watching for oncoming tourists with cameras.
Off to Þingvellir we go! The continental divide was really something. Although, we got caught up in a little more walking here than we would have liked. We had hoped to see some other sites within the park but ran out of time.
Our next priority was a stop at Reykjadalur Hot Springs in the town of Hveragerði. We had read this was literally one of THE best short hikes in Iceland, and we are all about the hot springs. So, we went for it. We had brought our micro spikes on the trip in case of an icy hiking trail. But the trailhead didn’t “look” icy. It was a nice, dry, paved gravel trail. “What an easy ascent,” we thought. So, Ryan left the micro spikes in the car. About 1 kilometer into the hike, however, we realized very quickly that we had made a bad decision to leave the micro spikes. The gravel ended and the trail became increasingly slippery. But, we pushed through and we were SO glad we did. This was our absolute favorite activity we did on the entire trip. The hike was gorgeous, filled with geothermal activity and boiling springs. There were waterfalls along the way and rivers. This hike is an absolute MUST, and we would highly suggest making this a priority for anyone traveling to Iceland.
We headed out of Reykjadalur soaking wet and began our drive back to Reykjavik. We had plans to check out a restaurant called Tapas Barinn that has great reviews for a traditional Icelandic feast. We were looking forward to trying puffin, whale, char, and horse. But, no dice due to the 3-hour wait. Icelandic Fish & Chips at the Volcano House hit the spot!
Finding a spot to park the van is not easy in downtown Reykjavik. There is a city camp ground where you can park for free. Although, in the winter time the facilities are closed. You can pay $17 USD per person to use the facilities at the Reykjavik City Hostel. Considering it was late (and we did not want to get arrested for public urination), that is what we decided to do.
Day 6: Penises & Planes
As you may know, Reykjavik does have a penis museum. We did purchase several t-shirts, not for us, but for friends back home. And stop giving me that “sure, it was for a friend” look.
After penises, penises, and MORE penises, we had just enough time to grab a few additional souvenirs, clean and pack up the van, and fill the tank. We were not ready to leave (Iceland, NOT the penis museum). But we are filled with even more wanderlust and excitement about our next trip.
Check out Ryan’s disappointed face on the plane heading home…We had the time of our lives and created many beautiful memories along the way. We were also fortunate enough to create lots of wonderful content for our new company website and look forward to bringing our clients to Iceland for some amazing adventures! And, the songwriter in me could not resist writing this little song about our trip. Until next time, Iceland. Bon voyage!