I would have been content with a nice day hike for my birthday weekend. When adventure, or $200 roundtrip airfare direct from Boston to Reykjavik, calls you must go. It was irresistible, we couldn’t help ourselves.
We boarded our WOW flight with tiny backpacks and high expectations. The red eye flight last four hours and I didn’t catch a wink of sleep. On this budget airline the only free thing is use of the bathroom. That may seem like a given, but many bathrooms are paid in Iceland. Water, snacks, carry ons/checked luggage, all incredibly expensive. Pro tip: Fill a water bottle and buy a snack in the airport before boarding. I know, so pricey, but it will save you in the long run if you get hungry.
4am we landed in Keflavik, then started the 1 hour long car ride to Reykjavik. By the time we arrived it was around 6am and we were hungry. Unfortunately, nothing opens early in Iceland and we wandered around for another hour out in the cold. The bars just let out and you could smell the epic party scene in all its “glory”.
Finally at 7am we found an open bakery which served delicious pancakes and pastries at a reasonable price! By reasonable I am refering to Boston pricing, which actually is super expensive. You won’t do much better than that in Reykavik where the average dinner costs around 36,000 Kronas or $32.00 USD.
Once our stomachs were full we started driving to the south coast where we would begin our 2.5 days tour. Here are a few keywords in Icelandic so you know what I am talking about:
Our first stop was the one I was most excited for, Selijanafoss. This is that famous waterfall you can walk behind. Sadly, that wasn’t happening. Not only did they charge per person, but it was overrun by busloads of tourists. There was no way I was getting epic shots of this. We quickly snapped a couple of photos from the parking lot so we didn’t have to pay a fee. 👎
The next stop was SO much better. There were still many tourists, but it was free. Skogafoss was incredibly impressive. We had the opportunity to capture beautiful shots, and there was a lovely hike up the side of the waterfall. I would highly recommend this as a stop on your icelandic tour. Think Game of Thrones imagery. 👍
The last stop of the day was by far my favorite. The black sand beach in the town of Vik was surreal, especially in the snow. It was natural black and white, a rare sight. We unfortunately didn’t have the time or energy to make the 3 km hike out to the plane crash site, but there was driving freezing rain so turning back seemed to be a smart choice. 👍👍
Lets have a conversation about driving in Iceland. The roads are well maintained and it is fairly easy to get around, but there is a reckless driving problem. There were cars, trucks, and buses stranded after crashing on the side of the road everywhere. They don’t use salt so it is icy, but many of the European and Asian tourists drive way above posted speed limits. Anton and I drove the speed limits and many cars and trucks flashed us to get out of their way. Only problem? There are very few places to pull over in the winter. They simply aren’t plowed. With narrow single lane highways other drivers would speed around us. Anton and I often found them launched off the road miles later. Jacknifed trucks to flipped over cars.
Dinner: After nearly an hour of searching in downtown Reykavik for dinner we finally found an affordable dinner. Reykavik Street Food is a no frills counter establishment with a couple tables, but boy are those Icelandic Fish and Chips good. At about $13 USD per plate it is extremely reasonable too! That’s cheap for even New England. I am a huge fried seafood lover, this plate ranked among the best I have ever had. 👍👍
Drinks: Skip Microbar (the hottest place to grab a beer). The bartender was a con artist and the beer selection wasn’t great for a country that has more breweries per capita than any other country. We both specifically ordered a smaller sized beer and he gave us the largest size and tried to charge us for it with the assumption that we didn’t understand millimeters. Needless to say we weren’t happy. 👎👎👎
Hotel: The Hotel Laxnes is very minimalist Scandanavian design, but comfortable. Located 15 minutes outside the city it is also away from light pollution for prime northern light viewing. A decent breakfast is included with a friendly staff. Just make sure to skip the egg and tuna salad 👍
Day two was a drive to Snaefellness Penninsula. This is a much less touristy part of the country only a couple hours north of the city. I LOVED it. The tall rugged peaks and coastline will make your heart explode in happiness as a nature lover. Pictures are your best friend here. We visited the National Park, Kirkjufell, and the Little Black Chruck. The photo ops were endless. 😁👍👍👍
Here’s another pro tip: SKIP THE BLUE LAGOON. Why? Contrary to popular belief it is not natural, it is actually man made and there is an ugly power plant in the background. You will bathe in mercury and arsenic particles from the plant. We did our research. Instead drive 45 minutes north of Reykjavik to enjoy Kroma Hot Springs. It is a lovely spa with all the amenities! And at only about $35usd it fits the budget. Blue Lagoon costs $100 per person.
That night to save money and because we were exhausted we decided to get Dominos. Still $16 USD for a medium. This is a nature trip, not a foodie trip. Don’t judge.
No northern lights for us sadly, it was totally overcast both nights. Ironically there were reports of northern lights in New Hampshire and as far south as Massachusetts. 😞
Day three was a relaxing morning spent wandering the streets and shops of Reykjavik. Also the Icelandic hotdog happened. It was shockingly tasty and cheap. I don’t even like hotdogs👍