With so much to share, I've split our trip into two parts. Here's part one which includes travel, our itinerary, what to pack, and our first four days.
A couple weeks ago, five girlfriends and I experienced the trip of a lifetime road-tripping through the ragged terrain of Iceland and exploring every nook + cranny of the island we could manage. I urge you to purchase a flight as soon as you're done reading this!
Last year, my girl Kelsey (at Kelsey Rae Designs) noticed a new airlines, WOW Air, offering round-trip flights to Iceland for $650. We immediatley booked it and within a few short months, we had four other girls booking their flight with us. And because we're super awesome millennials, we coined ourselves the #sixchicksiniceland.
While we were there, we shot for Krochet Kids, an inspiring company that employs individuals in Uganda + Peru at fair wages to crochet scarves + beanies. Their pieces are so cute and they kept us insanely warm in the bitter cold.
I've received so many questions from friends headed to Iceland soon so I thought I'd put together a recap of our trip including photo, tips and logistics. Here we go!
**There are some iPhone photos mixed in for when the big camera wasn't around. The snorkeling photos at the Silfra Fissure were taken by our awesome tour guide, Astrid.**
After hearing mixed reviews, we nervously booked our flights through WOW Air from Los Angeles to Reykjavik for the first week of March. We were drawn to the cheap flights they offered, though it simultaneously made us nervous that it meant we'd experience cancelled/delayed flights or poor service.
You guys! We had such a great experience with WOW! Our flights were on time, the staff was incredibly friendly, and we got the same amount of leg room as any other flight I've taken. With the airfare being so low, they do charge you for everything. You can bring one personal item on the flight for free (i.e. a purse or small backpack), but they charge for a carry-on and any checked bags. They're also pretty strict on their size and weight limits of bags. They don't offer any complimentary snacks or drinks including water. We knew all of this going into it and even with the $3 waters on the flight, we still paid much less than other airlines.
We rented cars through SAD Cars (what a name...). They picked us up from the airport and took us to their garage just a few miles from the airport. They had great service and we survived, though we did wonder if our little old cars would survive each day. They had nearly 500,000 miles on them so we gambled + said a little prayer every morning we started them.
what to pack
Since we went in the winter and snow was abundant, we packed warm.
- Waterproof boots (I can't say enough good things about my Sorel Caribou boots, but if you're traveling in the late spring/summer, I'd suggest a Sorel boot that's "less intense." No matter the season though, waterproof boots are a must.
- Hand warmers. We all loved these. They SAVED us.
- Gloves, scarves, and beanies.
- A wind-proof, water resistant coat. Three of us got these and loved them.
- Wool socks. These worked perfectly.
- A plug adapter for electrical outlets.
- A wool or fleece-lined base layer if it's under 40 degrees. I used and loved Smart Wool.
It certainly helped having Kelsey, a professional planner, coordinate our entire trip. I wouldn't have changed a single part of our itinerary! I felt it provided plenty of structure for our trip to maximize what we saw each day, while providing enough wiggle room for spontaneous stops - usually to pet the Icelanidc horses, heh. We stayed in Reykjavik for four nights, then stayed in Vík for the last three nights. If we had stayed longer to see the north part of the island, I would've probably stay in Vík for 2 nights and then moved to a more northern town for the rest of the trip. I'm so happy with the way we split up our Airbnbs! Reykjavik is an excellent basecamp for the Golden Circle so it worked out perfectly to stay there as long as we did.
- Landed at 4am, grabbed our rental car.
- Explored downtown Reykjavik + Hallgrímskirkja Church.
- Checked into our Airbnb in Reykjavik.
Since we couldn't check into our Airbnb until 3pm, we explored Reykjavik until we were delirious (we were running on nearly 30 hours of no sleep!). We loved seeing the gorgeous Hallgrímskirkja Church whose architecture is mirrored after the basalt columns found on the southern coast of Iceland (photos of it are in part 2 of the trip).
- Drove 1/2 of the Golden Circle and saw the Strokkur Geyser.
- Snorkeled in the Silfra Fissure.
- Saw the Bruarfoss waterfall.
Our first full day of exploring outside the city! Reykjavik is near the iconic "Golden Circle" so it was incredibly easy to drive the first half of it on this day. The Strokkur Geyser was incredible to witness. It erupts every 5-8 minutes.
Next up was snorkeling the Silfra Fissure! The Silfra fissure is the crack between the North American and Eurasian continental plates and it's the only place in the world where you can swim between two tectonic plates. The crack widens by 2cm every year. It's some of the purest water in the world as it's naturally filtered through porous underground lava. You're encouraged to drink it while snorkeling, too - it was so good! The fissure is in Þingvellir National Park which is where Icelandic vikings gathered for nearly 1,000 years and ultimately formed the first parliament of Iceland. There's so much rich history there and Kelsey and I knew we had to add this venture to our list, especially after we saw The Blonde Abroad do it a few years ago. We bought our tickets quickly before we could back out. With the air temperature below freezing, the last thing we wanted to do was get in 34 degree water, which stays about the same even in the summer months.
To snorkel, you wear your own thin base layer such as leggings and a long-sleeved shirt. Then they give you a warm, puffy suit to keep in the heat, followed by a dry suit. Your hands, lips, and cheeks are the only part of you that gets wet. Despite mostly being dry and warm, it felt a bit claustrophobic and overwhelming to walk into the frigid water. My hands went numb immediately, but I adapted quickly to the environment and it was smooth sailing from there. It was unreal! I'm so glad our guide gave us those photos to remember it!
Lastly, we saw Bruarfoss waterfall which featured an incredible ribbon of bright blue icy water. It was a little tough to find, but so magical.
- Drove the second half of the Golden Circle and saw Kerid Crater Lake + Gulfoss waterfall.
- Swam in the Secret Lagoon in Flúðir.
Next up was Kerid Crater Lake, a cone volcano that erupted and then collapsed on itself revealing the water table. Pretty amazing. Then we ventured to the most touristy waterfall of the trip, Gulfoss. Worth it! Finally we headed to The Secret Lagoon in Flúðir, a natural hot springs with temps at about 100 degrees. It was so relaxing and amazing! I highly recommending making a stop there. Just behind the swimming area are mini geysers and springs with water temperates closer to 200 degrees. Amazing!
- Enjoyed the Blue Lagoon!
- Saw the Northern Lights!
This was probably my favorite day of the trip, though it's painfully hard to choose. I didn't think I'd love the Blue Lagoon quite as much as I did because it's so touristy. But I was obsessed and am determined to go back someday! Our reservation was at 8am so we got to watch the sunrise at 8:30am while the lagoon was pretty mellow. Before getting in, you have to shower and lather your hair up in a conditioner that they provide to protect it from drying out from the concentrated minerals in the water.
Guys, we were there ALL DAY. The water temperature was cooler than The Secret Lagoon so we never got too hot. Thus, we stayed in for hours without needing to take a break from the heat (unlike the Secret Lagoon). While you're in the water, they have a mask station to swim up to and apply a silica mud mask, followed by an algae mask. It was glorious. They also have a swim-up bar and a restaurant so they provide you with a wrist band that you scan anytime you'd like to make a purchase - brilliant! And deadly. It was all too easy to order a glass of champagne at the flick of the wrist. We ate at the LAVA Restaurant on property in giant plush bath robes, then soaked again for a few more hours. And when it was time to shower off and leave, our hair was silkier than ever thanks to their amazing conditioner. It was pretty much the best spa experience of my life. I highly recommending devoting an entire day to this!
Next up, the northern lights! We actually saw the flights from our plane coming in (talk about a way to kick off a trip!), but were determined to see it from the ground too. We drove about 20-30 minutes outside Reykjavik to get away from the city lights. The visibility was measured to be at a 6 that night on a scale from 1-9. I think my biggest regret was not bringing my tripod for it. The winter wind made it impossible to get a clear shot, but it was magical nonetheless. So photographers, don't be silly like me. Bring the tripod.