Iceland Trip Recap - alisonplueckhahn.com

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June 30, 2019

Iceland Trip Recap

I have been dying to go to Iceland since high school, and it finally happened!!! One of my best friends (and maids-of-honor!) Liz reached out to me several months ago and said her friend Courtney had found super cheap plane tickets to Iceland. Then they asked if I wanted to go, and of course, I said yes!

We did a ton of research before we left and planned a detailed yet flexible 12-day timeline for our trip. And on June 12, we packed our bags and flew to Iceland! It was the most incredible trip of my life, and I am still so blown away by all the beautiful things we saw. It may sound cliché, but I was in awe of God and His creation throughout our trip!

Throughout this post, I’m also including some tips we learned on our trip that may help you if you ever plan your own Iceland adventure! Look for those in italics throughout this post 🙂

related post: charleston spring break recap

Before I get to the photos, I want to share a little anecdote about the situation that surrounded them 😂Those who know me know that I am a notorious over-packer. However, I was very proud of myself for having successfully packed everything for my 12-day trip into one carryon suitcase and a tote bag that was my personal item for the plane. That being said, my tote bag was absolutely stuffed and became pretty heavy as I walked through the airport.

To create a little more room in my bag, I removed my Patagonia jacket, unzipped the pockets and put all of my camera memory cards, charger, and extra battery inside. Yeah, big mistake.

I’m not normally a forgetful person, but I managed to leave my jacket (my favorite one I own and the only one I’d brought with me to Iceland) somewhere in either the Toronto airport, on the plane, or in the Reykjavik airport. And I never found it. So about half of these photos are taken on my phone, and the other half were taken on my DSLR camera on a camera card I purchased in Iceland using my one charged camera battery. 😂 Enjoy!

Day One: Reykjavik, Iceland

Courtney and I were on the same flight from Austin to Reykjavik, and we arrived much earlier in the day than Liz. Once we got off our flight (and I realized I had lost my coat haha), we went to the rental car place and picked up our little Kia Cee’d.

Tip: While the Kia did a great job overall, we definitely wish we would’ve gotten an SUV! Only one place we wanted to visit actually required four-wheel drive, but there were tons of roads with large rocks and gravel, so having a car just a little higher off the ground would’ve made a huge difference! One thing we are SO HAPPY we did was get both a GPS and a WiFi hotspot in the car. You really do need both!

Downtown Reykjavik

When we arrived, we stopped at Reykjavik Roasters for lattes and croissants then walked to the Hallgrimskirkja Church. After that, we walked around some of the shops in the downtown area. I even found a coat on sale in one of those shops which was such a lifesaver!

After walking around some more, we picked up Liz from the airport and made a second trip to Reykjavik Roasters. And then came our biggest mistake: we ate hot dogs for dinner.

Oh how I wish I could go back and toss that hot dog in the trash before I even took a bite! Iceland is actually kind of known for their hot dogs, so I figured it was as good a time as any to try one (I normally can’t stand hot dogs but I was trying to be a bit ~adventurous~). Maybe an hour later, I felt sick to my stomach and threw the whole thing up 😷 Courtney and Liz didn’t have as strong of a reaction, but they also mentioned not feeling great after dinner!

Tip: Don’t eat the hot dogs.

We ended the night by getting groceries for the next few days (only $10 each for several days worth of lunches, snacks, and dinner!) and drove to our Airbnb in Hafnarfjordur.

Tip: If you’re visiting Iceland in the summer, make sure your Airbnb has blackout shades or at least very dark curtains. Otherwise, it’ll be midnight and your room will still be this bright.

Day Two: Snæfellsnes Peninsula

We woke up early on Day Two and hopped in the car to head to the Þingvellir National Park. We had been on the road for maybe 15 minutes when we saw a sign for a horse farm and decided to pull over and check it out. The family who owns the farm was super nice and let us pet the horses and walk around the gorgeous nearby creek!

Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

We eventually made it to the national park. I really enjoyed the park, especially since you can literally walk right in between the North American and European tectonic plates! The park also had some historic buildings, a beautiful waterfall, and just pretty views all around!

Next, we hopped in the car to head to our next destination. Shockingly, we saw another pretty sight on the side of the road and pulled over once again 🙂

Glymur Falls

We eventually made it to Glymur Falls which was about an hour drive from the national park. The waterfall was gorgeous, but it ended up being a longer hike than my out-of-shape body and blister-ridden feet could handle. Liz tagged me in the meme below later the next day and it was the most accurate thing for me on this trip.

While I didn’t take any photos of the falls themselves, we did find these beautiful flowers that basically looked like giant bluebonnets!

Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss

So we actually went to a place called Gerðuberg Basalt Cliffs between Glymur and Kirkjufell, but truthfully, they weren’t that cool. We hiked up them and it was a pretty view, but it wasn’t really worth it in my opinion.

Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss, however, was super cool!! While the waterfall (Kirkjufellsfoss) wasn’t all that impressive, it looked absolutely beautiful with the Kirkjufell mountain behind it! This mountain was in several scenes from Game of Thrones so there were a good amount of tourists there, but it was still worth it in my opinion!

Our Airbnb that night was in the most adorable town, Olafsvik! We ate a late dinner at Sker Restaurant (highly recommend the pizza!) and had a wonderful night’s sleep in our Airbnb. This time we had blackout shades so it was much easier to fall asleep!

Day Three: Snæfellsnes Peninsula

We stayed in the area for Day Three since we were spending a second night at our Olafsvik Airbnb. We began the day with coffee from the adorable Kaldilækur coffeehouse. Everyone was so sweet to us, and the coffee was delicious!

Buðir Church

I know this place is a major tourist spot, but I love it so much!! The Buðir church was one of the first things I remember seeing photos of from Iceland, and I just had to go there myself! There were definitely a good amount of tourists, but it wasn’t too hard to work around them for photos.

We also saw a cool A-frame house on the way there, so I grabbed a few shots of that!

Londrangar Basalt Cliffs

This place was super super cool! This was one of our longer hikes, but it was absolutely beautiful and not a difficult hike at all. I highly recommend visiting and walking through the park!

Arnarstapi, Iceland

I saw something about Arnarstapi in our Olafsvik Airbnb. It was a cute little town with several restaurants, but I went to find this adorable white house perched on top of a cliff!

Unknown Waterfall

Yeah, I can’t for the life of me remember what this waterfall was called. It was really pretty though and somewhere near either Arnarstapi or the Londrangar cliffs. If you’re feeling adventurous, go try to find it 🙂

Tip: Write down all the places you find along the way so you don’t forget in the future.

Lupine Field

Again, I don’t know exactly where this is, but we saw it on our way back to Olafsvik! It was the most incredible field of lupine flowers with mountains and a red-roofed church in the background. I’m pretty sure the “road” we drove down to get closer was actually a hiking trail so maybe try avoiding those roads with huge rocks if you’re in a small Kia 🙂

Day Four: Westfjords

This day was primarily spent driving roughly six hours from Olafsvik to the Westfjords region. We began the day at the Berserkjahraun lava fields, which honestly wasn’t anything spectacular (there are lots of lava fields along the road pretty much anywhere you go). Then, we visited Nesbraud in Stykkishólmur for coffee and pastries.

Dynjandi

After driving for many hours, most of which were on dusty gravel roads, we arrived at the Dynjandi waterfall which was truly incredible. It’s by far one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been!

Patreksfjörður

We hopped back in the car and continued our drive to Patreksfjörður where we stayed that night. On our way to the Airbnb, we came across this beautiful little waterfall just off the side of the road.

Then, I finally saw the thing I had been looking throughout our entire drive that day: an abandoned shack!!!

No, seriously. I knew a few other photographers have photographed this shack in the past and that it was located somewhere in the Westfjörds, but I couldn’t find any specific location for it. The Westfjörds is also a pretty huge region of the country, so I wasn’t feeling too confident about my chances of just stumbling upon it.

But that’s exactly what happened! We weren’t too far out from our Airbnb, and I just happened to look over to the side of the road and there it was! I love that there are goats just hanging out there, and it was so beautiful with the mountains and that low cloud in the background!

That night, we visited a natural hot pool right outside the village of Tálknafjörður. It was basically just a big cement pool with a hose that filled it up, but it was super relaxing with an incredible view!

Day Five: Northern Iceland

We spent most of this day driving as well. The only place we actually made it to from our itinerary was Hvitserkur. It was really beautiful, but the rain and crazy wind prevented us from staying super long 🙂

We eventually made it to our Airbnb, which was an actual bed & breakfast called Húnaver. We absolutely LOVED this place, and the host was so sweet! The town where the B&B is located is adorable too.

This day also happened to be Icelandic National Day, so we celebrated with dinner at a placed called Borgin. The food was delicious and one of the waiters brought us extra bread which was much appreciated 🙂

We spent the rest of the night drinking tea, eating popcorn, and looking through a coffee table book featuring the work of prominent Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson.

Day Six: Húsavík, Iceland

I don’t have a *ton* of photos from this day, but just trust me when I say it was the BEST. DAY. EVER.

Whale Watching

First we went on a whale watching / puffin tour with North Sailing. We had so many layers of clothing on, yet I still have never been more cold in my life.

Liz and I also were getting incredibly seasick. If it weren’t for the dramamine we took before getting on the boat, I am 100% confident we would’ve thrown up. Even though we were absolutely miserable the first part of the tour, it was all worth it when we SAW A WHALE!!! It was a humpback whale who surfaced about four times when we were there. As if that wasn’t already incredible, a school of dolphins arrived and started PLAYING with the whale!! So freaking adorable. All three of us cried a bit, not gonna lie.

Geosea

As previously mentioned, I have never been colder in my life. Frostbite seemed inevitable. So we decided to visit a new hot pool that had recently opened in Húsavík and ohhhhh my gosh, it was the best thing ever. The pool is called Geosea, and it’s a natural hot pool that uses sea water rather than fresh water. Oh, and did I mention that it’s next to a lighthouse on a cliff that overlooks the ocean? And that you can swim up to a window and order drinks? Yeah. We stayed there for probably three hours, and I have never felt so content.

Whatever, you do, you have to visit this place if you’re ever in Iceland.

Day Seven & Day Eight: Vík, Iceland

Day Seven

Confession: I have only one photo from Day Seven worth sharing. Again, we spent most of the day driving, and it was just a pretty low-key day. We did visit Stokksnes which was pretty, but since it was such an overcast day, the clouds covered the mountains so it wasn’t a great view. If you happen to be nearby there on a clear day, definitely check it out!

We did see this cool lighthouse when we were driving though:

We also had “Explore Höfn” on our itinerary for the day. I’m not sure where we got this idea that Höfn was this adorable little town, but we thought we would want to spend a good amount of time walking around there. Yeah, there’s nothing there. We ended up eating dinner at like 5pm, bought ice cream at a grocery store, and watched Gossip Girl in our Airbnb.

Day Eight

Our first stop on day eight was the Diamond Beach and Jokulsarlon Lagoon. Both were really beautiful but big tourist spots, so keep that in mind if you ever visit!

We also visited Fjallsarlon, which is another area where you can see the glacier.

Next, we visited Skaftafell. We hiked to Svartifoss which was absolutely beautiful! The hike was very uphill on the way there, and I was passed by many elderly people.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

And now for the most beautiful place I have ever laid eyes on: Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon.

These photos just don’t even begin to do it justice. Justin Bieber actually recorded a music video here, and so many people visited after it was released that the landscape was damaged. They closed down the park for a pretty good while, but it had just reopened before our trip! Yay!

If you’re ever in Iceland, you absolutely MUST visit this place.

We finished the night with an incredible dinner at Hotel Laki. The food was delicious, and the restaurant had a wonderful atmosphere. Highly recommend!

Day Nine: Black Sand Beach

Reynisfjara

We began the day at Reynisfjara Beach which is one of the more popular black sand beaches. Several scenes in Game of Thrones were filmed here which isn’t surprising at all when you see it! There were a lot of tourists when we went, so it was hard to get many good photos. But it was beautiful with really interesting rock formations, basalt columns, and a cave.

We also visited Dyrhólaey, which is just further along down the beach. It was really pretty, but I didn’t take many photos there.

Sólheimasandur Plane Crash

This was the thing I was probably most excited about seeing going into the trip! After a *very* long walk down a dusty, rocky road, we finally reached the plane crash (read more about it here) and it was SO. COOL. They discourage you from climbing on the plane since it’s kinda falling apart and has some sharp metal, but we did it anyway ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We timed our arrival pretty well so there weren’t very many people around when we took these!

We also tried to make it to a volcano called Mælifell that day, but unfortunately it required four-wheel-drive to reach it which our little Kia certainly was not capable of. If you do happen to rent a FWD car, take pictures of it and send it to me so I can see 🙂

Day Ten: All The Fosses

Skogafoss

In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, foss is “waterfall” in Icelandic. We had four waterfalls on our itinerary for the day but ended up cutting it down to just two. The first place we went was Skogafoss which was basically in the backyard of our Airbnb. We literally rolled out of bed, threw on some clean clothes and went over there.

Seljalandsfoss

After that, we went back to our Airbnb, put on a bit of makeup, and drove to Seljalandsfoss. This place was super cool, but also super cold near the water (seems obvious now). I don’t recommend wearing shorts near the waterfall. 🥶

Reykjavik

We decided to go back to Reykjavik to shop around a bit and spend some more time exploring the city. We also went back to Reykjavik Roasters (shocking), and the owner even gave us nine free pastries since they were about to close for the day (blessings).

Day Eleven: Reykjavik, Iceland

We spent our last day in Iceland in the area around Reykjavik. Our first stop was Gullfoss which was pretty cool and looked like a giant slice of pie.

Next we went to Strokkur which is a big geyser in Geysir geothermal area. Apparently we get the word “geyser” because of this place in Iceland. There were tons of people there and the whole place smelled like eggs (guessing it’s the sulfur).

Our last stop on the trip was Kerið Crater. We didn’t stay there very long, but it was pretty cool. You can hike all the way down to the edge of the lake, but we actually preferred the view from above so you could see the whole thing.

Since we’d finally seen everything on our itinerary, we decided to go for some ice cream at a farm. This place was so adorable and the ice cream was DELICIOUS. Highly recommend visiting Efstidalur Farm if you get the chance!

My flight was leaving at midnight, so after dinner and hot chocolate in Reykjavik, Liz and Courtney dropped me off at the airport and my 28-hour travel day began.

I’m so thankful for the opportunity to spend 11 full days in one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen with two incredible friends! This trip was definitely one for the books ♡

FINE ART PRINTS: Available Now!

If you happened to like any of these photos from my trip so much that you’d like a copy of your own, feel free to check out my fine art print gallery! Prints are available in a variety of sizes and will ship straight to your door.

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