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Iceland is one of my favorite places I've ever been. Figured I'd put my review out there first so you can go ahead and take notes and start planning your own trip of a lifetime. This has been a spot at the top of my bucket list for some years now. Africa is #1 for reference.
Iceland is unlike anywhere you've ever been before and it takes some planning. If you're looking for a vacation where you go from laying in bed to laying at the beach, this isn't the place for you. Iceland is best enjoyed with a super adventurous and active spirit. I needed this kind of trip in my life at this exact time. I wanted to really get out there in nature and challenge myself a little physically. You know when you really want to feel like you went far away? Iceland has the most stunning nature I have ever seen and even the killer pictures don't quite do it justice. There are lots of ways to explore this beautiful country, but I'm going to let you know how I did it and I would do it exactly the same if I went again.
So much can be explored without a guide. As long as you have a car with GPS, driving isn't difficult. So if you wanted to stay in Reykjavik the whole time and just do day trips from there, it is possible, though you will have long days. I wanted to be a little more immersed in nature, so I booked a photo tour with a professional photographer I found on Instagram. This is the most genius decision I've ever made when it comes to traveling. We camped overnight, drove through a river and down treacherous roads. We did things I never would have done alone in a rental car. So no matter what you do in Iceland, something like this needs to be part of your experience, even if it's just for a day. In my opinion, it made my trip worth it.
So let's get to it! Here is how I did Iceland and don't miss the secret waterfall because it was the best waterfall!
DAY 1: Landed in Reykjavik at 6 am, rented a car and drove to Blue Lagoon before heading back into town, checking into Sand Hotel. Blue Lagoon was not my scene. It was the number one thing people asked me about, but I walked in and walked out. It felt like cattle lining up to wade into a man made pool that's actually a geothermal runoff from a nearby power plant. You have to buy tickets way in advance and it's pricey.
DAY 2: Take the 1 road all the way to Vik (the black beach), stopping at all of the waterfalls along the way. You are going to want to stop alot because the terrain changes so drastically throughout the drive. Icelandic horses, spectacular flowers and sheep butt. Lots of sheep butt.
Here's me about to munch on cinnamon rolls before we get going...
Dried fish heads for sale swaying in the wind. Eerie so I loved it of course!
Seljalanafoss. There's 3 waterfalls at this stop, so don't miss the last one. Just another reason I loved the adventures here. There is so much for the taking right off of the side of the road. No need to ever hike for 8 hours for one view. This is park and walk right up to the most spectacular settings imaginable. Though you will get WET. This was my first 'fall and I clearly couldn't contain my excitement. It really is simply incredible how massive these are. Even cooler, you can fill your water bottle up and drink it. It's that clean. Talk about getting in touch with nature.
Again, make sure you walk into the cave on the 3rd waterfall so you can climb up here and get a shot. I stood and let the water hit my face and it was one of my top 5 moments of the trip.
Then hop in the car and continue on the 1 south to Skogafoss. This is the big one you see photos of all of the time. I figured it would be incredibly touristy, but again to my pleasant surprise, even the "touristy" stuff wasn't that crowded. You can climb the stairs here for an incredible view and a walk that goes miles into the countryside. I sat and watched sheep graze for awhile. I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings.
After a great burger at the little restaurant at the bottom of the waterfall, it was time to find the hidden gem! It's called Kvernufoss. It's down the road from Skogafoss. I used these directions. It's easy to find and WOW!!! You can climb behind it and just take it all in. This spot was insanely gorgeous and I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, thousands of years ago, alone. It was something special and my favorite waterfall of the trip.
Then finish the drive to Vik. This is the black beach surrounded by these basalt columns.
Oh yea, Iceland is the windiest place I've ever been! Important to layer and layer some more and waterproof yourself. Check out my Iceland packing post HERE.
DAY 3/4: Picked up by Joe Shutter for a two-day photo tour. This was the only actual "tour" I did. I prefer off-the-beaten path style and this was the extreme version of that. With this tour, you are getting a private guide, in his Land Rover Defender, with intimate knowledge of the landscape and a lesson in photography. We spent a night camping at the Volcano Huts and got to watch the sunset at midnight from the top of a mountain. We explored caves, flew the drone and had stellar company. There are photographers who offer this kind of thing in Iceland, but of course I recommend Joe or his friend Frank who does the same thing and joined us too! I took photos of them, they took bomb ass photos of me. Win Win. Check them out if you go. It's a must.
Day 5: Drive the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This is pronounced Sny-fells-nes. I worked hard to learn it because Icelandic is so difficult, but their words are so fun to say.
Stopped at Arnastapi to do this epic arch jump for Instagram of course:)
Stayed at this remote and cozy little spot called Hotel Budir. And since the sun doesn't go down this time of year, we had this view all night long:)
Of course I found the only goat farm in all of Iceland and re-routed the day trip to get here. It's about 2 hours from Reykjavik and a great place to stop on your way to Snaefellsnes. Goats from Game of Thrones were here and they acted kind of celebrity status, but the babies made up for it!
There are gorgeous little churches all over the country, but this was the one I was most excited to see and it was adjacent to the hotel.
Day 6: Headed back into Reykjavik for the last night. Stopped and had the best coffee from Reykjavik Roasters (below) and of course more cinnamon rolls from Braud and Co.
So are you adding Iceland to your own bucket list or what?!