Magical Iceland... Part 1!

Mar 2, 2017

From the moment that we landed in Iceland, I knew that it was going to be an interesting vacation. It would be the type of trip more deserving of daily chronicles of our adventures as opposed to a quick summary of the week once we'd arrived home.  Prior to this trip, I knew little about the island.  I knew that it was expensive, sparsely populated, and that in 2010 a volcanic eruption here cancelled my glamorous European layovers and left me stranded in Dubai.  We might not have gotten off on the right foot, Iceland and I, but this trip has been full of pleasant surprises.

Without further adieu, the adventures of Ryan and Krysta in Iceland. Some of the photos may not match the descriptions, but I'm on vacation and too lazy to upload and edit them all until we are home.

Day 1:

Leaving Paris was bittersweet.  I was sad to say goodbye to the city that had stolen my heart, but excited for the adventures ahead.  We had one last Parisian breakfast, packed our suitcases and caught an Uber to Orly airport.  We arrived to discover that our flight was delayed... rookie move, we forgot to check the status prior to leaving the hotel.  As it turned out, Iceland had experienced a record breaking snowfall the night prior, and all flights were understandably late to depart Reykjavik. We spent 3 extra hours in the airport, stuffing ourselves with the last few bites of glorious pastries and perfect espresso. When it was finally time to board, we crammed onto buses to take us to the remote stand where the aircraft was parked.  I felt a tinge of nostalgia as we watched a Boeing 777 taxi to the runway.  International airports always make me long for just a few cabin crew days.
We finally boarded the aircraft and the flight over was quick and easy.  It is remarkably easy to fly without an infant on your lap.  As we began our descent, you could see the beautiful coastline and mountains. A thick layer of snow blanketed the entire island.

Upon collecting our baggage, we circled the arrivals area a few times, cluelessly trying to find our rental car company.  We eventually discovered that we needed to take a shuttle bus, and made our way out into the cold.  Though it was about 10 degrees warmer than back home, it felt extra cold after a week of mild weather in Paris.
Once we had our car we hit the road, bound for our first ever Air BnB accommodation. We didn't expect much of the room, and it is probably good that we kept our expectations low.  We arrived to find a basic room in a basement suite with a mattress and box spring on the floor. A photo of sheep stared at us from the wall, a random pair of glasses were left on the nightstand, and we couldn't find the washroom for the first 20 minutes.  But alas, it was a place to sleep.
We set out in search of dinner after a long day of airports and flying.  As we drove down the street we were stopped by what looked like a construction crew, but the man who came to our window informed us that we'd have to wait a moment as they were filming a movie.  We watched as a car drove down the street, and an actor got hit by what I'm assuming was a food truck.  The empty street filled with people as actors and extras suddenly came running from out of nowhere. A few seconds later we were sent on our way.
We found the restaurant area of the city and trekked through the snow looking for a restaurant. The temperature hovered around freezing and all of the snow was a slushy wet mess. I was thankful for my boots, and Ryan was wishing that he'd packed some.
We dined at Laundromat Cafe.  Upstairs was a busy restaurant and bar area, downstairs was a laundromat and a kids play area. Iceland is strange and wonderful. I had the meatballs, not quite ready to brave traditional Icelandic cuisine. We spent a small fortune, but the food was good! It may be grocery stores and drive thrus from here on out.
Back at our room we tried to quietly get ready for bed without waking the other guests... no easy feat with squeaky doors and small spaces. We managed to get a decent sleep in preparation for the next day and the adventures that it would bring.

Day 2:

Our true tourist experience began on day 2, as we ventured to the popular Golden Circle.  It is a loop of attractions not too far from Reykjavik, perfect for a day trip.  We were off to a slow start, as we found ourselves at a standstill on the road behind a long line of cars. We stayed there for awhile as powerful wind gusts threw snow at our car.  Apparently a few vehicles ahead were stuck in the deep snow. 
The police arrived and we were eventually on our way to our first stop... ├×ingvellir National Park. We walked between the continental drift, took many photos of the gorgeous snowy views, and hiked up an icy hill to a waterfall.  
Next on the Golden Circle was Geysir, which is just what it sounds like... a geyser.  It erupts every 5 or so minutes, surrounded by eager, selfie-taking tourists.  I loved seeing everyone stand in anticipation.  Every time it would so much as bubble, all of the photographers would quickly lift their cameras just in case.  We watched it erupt about 5 or 6 times before I finally convinced Ryan that we should continue on.  
Next on the itinerary was Gulfoss, a large waterfall.  We weren't completely mesmerized by it, but the strong winds and ice pellets hitting our face probably played a role. It was pretty, but we spend our summers in the Canadian Rockies so waterfalls have to try pretty hard to impress us these days. I'm sure that we'd feel different had we visited in summer.  
Last but certainly not least on our circle tour was the Keri├░ crater.  We arrived just as the sun was setting, which I'm sure made it even more spectacular than it would have already been.  The trail was steep and icy, but totally worth the effort.  We watched the sun set from the crater rim as the mountains surrounding us turned gorgeous shades of pink and orange. When we finally got back to the car, I could no longer feel my toes, but I was totally okay with it. Iceland had officially won me over and it was only our first day of exploring.  

Our day wasn't over yet.  Hungry from a day of eating nothing but skyr yogurt, we stopped at Ikea for a meal that wouldn't drain our bank account.  Once we were full we headed to the car to return to our room, but a glimpse of the aurora and we quickly set out in search of dark country roads in hopes of a beautiful northern lights show. The aurora did not disappoint, and we spent a good deal of time taking photos as it surrounded us no matter which direction we looked.  

It was tough to call it a night, but it had been a long day and we were exhausted, so it was back to our basement suite.  When we arrived, we found ourselves with 2 new house guests. We fell asleep to the sounds of them partying and playing music, and we were thankful that it was our last evening there.  

Day 3: 

On our third day, we drove from Reykavik to Akureyi, in northern Iceland.  It was a long day spent mostly in the car, but the views were gorgeous and we made several stops for photos, snacks, and washrooms.  We took a brief detour in search of a beach that promised to be home to seals, but it ended up being way further than anticipated, on worn out gravel roads along the side of a cliff.  We turned around and accepted defeat.  

We finally arrived in Akureyri and we were so excited to check into our hotel. It was nothing special compared to some of the places we've stayed, but it was amazing after our Air BnB adventure. We had our own bathroom, a cozy bed, and a view of the sea! 
We briefly explored the area, ate an expensive and mediocre diner meal, and then called it an early night. 

Day 4:  

I woke up to the smell of food and could barely contain my excitement for the free hotel breakfast. I was even more excited to discover a beautiful spread of pastries, meats, cheese, waffles, and coffee.. glorious coffee! I feasted, trying to eat enough to justify skipping lunch.  
When Ryan was finally able to drag me away from the buffet, we began our day with a drive to Lake Myvatn. Turns out, it was mostly frozen. We did see some gorgeous reflections in the water that were worthy of a photo stop. We walked through the Dimmuborgir lava fields and made the decision to hike to the top of the Hverfjall crater. It was a steep, but quick hike up. We spent a good amount of time at the top admiring the views before finally descending and continuing on with our day.

It was late afternoon and we didn't know where to head next, so we made the impromptu decision to drive to the village of Husavik. It was a great decision.  
We stumbled upon a picturesque black sand beach, and a long walk along the shore led us to a trail up the side of a cliff, where we discovered the most incredible views just in time for a perfect sunset.  We were both in awe, and despite taking dozens of photos, nothing could justify the beauty of seeing it in person.  By the time that we got back to the car, 2 hours later, we were absolutely freezing but thrilled with our day.  

We dined at the only restaurant in Husavik that was open. It was expensive, but delicious. We ate lobster soup and shared a seafood pizza and by the time that we were finished eating my toes were finally warm again.  We went back to the hotel, climbed into our cozy bed, and fell asleep after another perfect day in Iceland.

Day 5: 

Today was day 5! After another huge hotel breakfast, we hit the road with our destination still unknown.  Ryan had his heart set on taking the longer, more scenic route that involved many kilometres of driving through long tunnels.  It would add a substantial amount of driving, but we had no timeline.  We drove through the tunnels along stunning cliff sides, and it was worth the detour.  
We eventually ended up at a cute hotel at the base of Eyjafjalla, the volcano that erupted in 2010.  We opted for the hotel buffet and it was a delicious meal that I ate far too much of.  When we asked about drinks, the chef told us that he didn't know how to make cocktails and that the bartender wasn't working this evening.  He told Ryan that he was more than welcome to hop behind the bar and make the drinks himself, so he did just that. He served us up some delicious long island iced teas.  
Now we are back in the hotel room, brainstorming about where tomorrow will take us.  One thing is for certain, we just keep falling more in love with Iceland and can't wait to see more of it! 

To be continued!