We took WOW Air out of Toronto airport. WOW is no longer a company but as the border patrol guy told us as we re-entered the US, “Oh, Iceland? Where the flights are cheap and everything else costs a fortune.” and I’ve never heard truer words.
We rented through Sixt which I’d recommend as they were really easy and had a shuttle from the airport. We rented an Opel Corsa for 11 days. We paid extra so we could both drive. We also paid a daily fee to have “internet to go” in our vehicle. Do not get the GPS, the hot spot to go is SO much better. You get a hotspot (w USB charger) that you can use your phone to navigate in the car. BUT the better part is that its portable. So you can take that hotspot wherever you go outside of the car. The hotel internet sucks? Well use the hotspot. Need navigation as you walk through the National Park? Bring the hotspot. It was an awesome thing to have. We’d bring it to a café if we just wanted coffee and we’d upload our pics to social media with it. It was definitely worth the $9 a day or whatever it was. Also sidenote, if you have a travel credit card of any kind, check into what they cover when you’re out of the country. My travel credit card allowed us to not pay for any of the insurances on the vehicle because they would reimburse any damages if we got charged for any. That saves a lot on the rental price as well.
Gas is extremely expensive, we definitely paid more for gas than we ended up paying for our rental car but that’s par for the course in Europe. It’s basically $7-8 a gallon and we drove 1399 miles so that was a lot of filling the tank!
On Hotels vs Airbnbs
We did 5 air bnbs and 5 hotels. Hotels are nice because they usually include all you can eat breakfast buffet and they’re really good quality food (like unlimited lox…get in mah belly). But it’s very difficult to find hotels for under $150, so that’s why we did Air Bnb’s where we could as they were typically cheaper. Basically when you’re in and near Reykjavik and/or the airport (Rekyjanes Peninsula) it’s better to go with Air Bnb’s because they’re generally cheaper. When you start going east along the south coast, basically once you pass Vik the towns are so small that there are no Air Bnbs because the population is so scarce, so you’re forced to book hotels.
Food is INSANELY expensive (like $18 for a burger and fry "lunch special” at a gas station). So we went to Bonus (it’s a grocery store) and bought a bunch of breakfast/sandwich/snack food and typically ate breakfast before we left the air bnb (or continential breakfast at hotels which was always included and DELICIOUS) and ate lunch on the go usually picnicking at wherever we were sightseeing that day. Then at night we’d go out to dinner since there wasn’t anything else we could really do once it gets dark anyway. “Fast food” dinners (gas stations, restaurants where you don’t have a waitress) would run about $50 a meal. If it’s sitdown, we did not get out without spending $100-150. Also, BUY YOUR ALCOHOL AT THE AIRPORT DUTY FREE. I can seriously not stress enough how expensive alcohol is hahaha. I had a house red wine one night and it was $24. Derek had multiple beers when we ate out and they were $12-18 a glass. It’s just stupid expensive. Even buying alcohol at the store is more expensive AND difficult because you can’t buy anything alcoholic anywhere (there are cans of what looks like beer at gas stations/grocery stores…do not be fooled they are non-alcoholic despite looking EXACTLY like the real cans of beer that do) except an actual liquor store which are few and far between and have super limited hours. Towards the end we avoided buying alcohol at restaurants all together and would just drink back at our hotel at night haha. Also, the hot dogs at the gas stations are the cheapest food you can buy not at a grocery store. They’re $3-4 and they’re amazing. They have lamb in them and they serve them with crispy onions and you can put all these delicious condiments on them. The meat standards in Iceland are incredibly high so eating at gas stations is totally normal and not shady at all. Everything was DELICIOUS and trying the local cuisine was totally worth it in our opinion.
While in Reykjavik, we went to the iconic Blue Lagoon which is pricey but was A LOT of fun and we spent over 4 hours there. The water is just incredible opaque blue, there are swim up bars and the places despite being literally packed somehow we were always able to find a corner to ourselves. We did a Game of Thrones tour through Viator was a full day (8 hours) and we got picked up and dropped off by our Air BnB. I would HIGHLY recommend that tour, Theo the tour guide was extremely entertaining and the places you visit are gorgeous even outside of the fact that they were in GoT. You go to a lot of places where you’d go as a tourist, except to areas of those places that you don’t go to as a tourist. Really cool to feel like you and 15 others have an entire mountain area to yourself and stuff like that. We also went a few museums, the Perlan was exceptional and they have a man-made ice cave exhibit you can explore which was VERY cool considering you can’t actually visit them unless you go to Iceland in the dead of winter. The Viking museum was also really neat, they have a hand built viking ship in the museum you can get on and explore. And we cannot forget the Icelandic Phallological museum where there are so many dicks your eyes might pop out of your head. Honestly, that place was as gross as it was fascinating hahaha.
One place to eat you have to go to is called Tapas Barrin in Reykjavik. It’s a tapas place weirdly enough but they have this thing called the Icelandic Gourmet Feast and it’s a pre-fixed $80 dinner that you get to try puffin, mink whale, lamb, artic char (UNBELIEVABLY good), langoustine (tiny lobsters that Iceland is known for) and like four other things. It was so damn good and Derek and I split it and we were BOTH full. Definitely the best meal for our money the entire time we were there. The bad news is everything is super expensive, the good news is that we did not have a single thing that we didn’t think was delicious while we were there. Also make sure you visit Seabarrin which has the most incredible lobster soup I’ve ever had in my life.
We did the Golden Circle and saw Kerio/Crater Lake, Secret Lagoon, Gulffoss, Haifoss and the Strokkur Geyser. We also ate at Fridheimar which is an incredible tomato greenhouse with a restaurant that basically only serves all you can eat tomato soup (and bloody marys). SO GOOD! The Secret Lagoon was an entirely different experience. It’s along the Golden Circle route so it’s an easy stop. The water is crystal clear, the place is tiny in comparison to the Blue Lagoon, but its also half the price and there are way less people. It’s an actual natural hot spring so it’s extremely hot in certain places which can be good or bad depending on what you like, we enjoyed trying to get as close to the scalding water as we could hahaa. They also have a boardwalk around the entire lagoon where you can see the hot springs that are WAY too hot to touch bubbling and steaming away. There are a lot of natural hot springs that are free that you can hike to and swim in as well, we just had so much we wanted to do and limited daylight so we chose to stick to the two we did instead.
Along the drive to Vik we stopped at Seljalandsfoss and Gljufrafoss waterfalls, along with 100 other "pull over I want to take a picture!" stops along the way. It's incredibly beautiful to drive the main highway in Iceland. While in Vik, we stayed at the Volcano Hotel which was really cute and only had about 8 rooms. We saw the Northern Lights that night as we laid out on a hill behind the hotel with two other couples that were staying there too. While in Vik, we also saw Dyrholaey Arch and the Black Sand Beaches. We considered going out to the plane wreckage but it is quite far and we chose to enjoy the sunset on the black sand beaches instead.
Along the drive to Hof, we stopped and saw the Svartifoss Waterfall, Kirkjugolf Bassalt Walkway and Fjadrargljufur Canyon. We stayed at Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon which was luxurious and had a swanky interior and delicious breakfast buffet. We took a Glacier Hiking Tour (via Glacier Guides) which I’d highly recommend. It was extremely easy physically (though you can book more challenging ones) but it was breathtakingly beautiful and our guide was great to talk to. We did a Glacier Lagoon (Zodiak) Boat tour as well where you take a tiny speedboat and they drive around the glaciers on the lagoon which was really neat (and freezing, dress warm). We also checked out Diamond Beach (so so cool), Fjallsarlon, and Skaftafell Glacier Lagoon. We then drove allll the way back towards Reykjavik before heading north and going through an insanely long tunnel to get into the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. We stayed at an AirBnB right next to Kirkjufell mountain which is the one from Game of Thrones! It was so cool to be that close and we saw the best northern lights of the trip when we were in this area. We also visited the Gerduberg Bassalt Cliffs, Arnarstapi (where Jules Verne was inspired to write Journey to the Center of the Earth) Londrangar, Djupalonssandur Beach and the Saxholl Crater.
Back towards Reykjavik
Along our way back south, we checked out the Deildartunguhver hot springs which happened to be closed for construction but we got to kind of peak around there and no one else was around! Hraunfossar - a super bright blue waterfall that's worth a stop, went on a 3 mile hike to Eldborg Volcano which was pretty flat and boring but at the end you scale the volcano and sit at the top on lava rock eating a snack and having a volcano to yourself for a half hour or so. We also did a cave tour in a lava tube (Viogelmir) which was pretty cool. We stayed at Fossatun Country Hotel which was fine, but by far our least favorite place we stayed while in Iceland. Pretty crowded and the rooms were small and the area was quite loud at night.
Reykjavik Part 2
Before we left Iceland for good, we got one more full day in Reykjavik which we spent visiting the Reykjanesviti Lighthouse, Kleifarvatn Lake and the Krisuvik Sulphur Fields (stiiiiinky!).
All and all, Iceland is the most beautiful country I've visited in my life and I wish it wasn't so damn cold all year or I might want to retire there.