I kept seeing pictures on my Instagram feed with these ridiculous landscapes and almost every time they would be geo-tagged somewhere in the ‘Land of Fire and Ice.’ I was sold.
Iceland certainly lives up to its nickname. Glacier lagoons, volcanos, erupting geysers and hot springs abound.
This was March so yes, it was cold. There were times when the weather was pretty intense but that’s a small price to pay for what you get in return.
Sometimes when you brave the harsher elements, you get the most enjoyable moments.
Where to stay: Ion luxury Hotel was worth the drive. It’s located in Nesjavellir, just east of Reykjavik, in a very remote spot near a geothermal plant. If it’s isolation and relaxation that you seek, this is the place for you. The outdoor pool is perfectly warmed to accommodate cold weather. The hotel can also setup various outdoor activities if you’re feeling adventurous. It’s modern and sleek but also cozy and inviting. Plus, it’s a good spot to rest up at if you’re traveling farther east. Plan on eating at the hotel restaurant often because there’s not much else around. The Northern Lights Bar, located in the hotel, is a great spot to hang out, grab a drink and possibly catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis.
Northern Lights Inn is a great option if you plan on taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon (which you absolutely should) and want to stay close to the airport in Keflavik. The hotel restaurant has panoramic views of the outside terrain. Don’t let the name fool you though, there is no guarantee you’ll be seeing green. But if you do get lucky, there’s a great indoor viewing spot.
Where to eat: Reykjavik Roasters is a quaint coffee shop with delicious cappuccinos. They’ve won a ton of awards for their coffee and rightfully so. Make sure you try the croissants too!
Cafe Paris is pretty much in the heart of downtown Reykjavik. It’s a cafe/restaurant with a lot of options on the menu. You can drop by for a quick espresso, have brunch/lunch, or get a dinner entrée. They’ve got something for everyone. Great bar too.
How to get around: The good news is that Iceland is eager to give you a ride. There’s plenty of tour buses to hop on if you don’t want to go it alone. If you want to blaze your own trail- rent a car. In the colder months, this may seem daunting if you’re not an experienced winter-weather driver. If you do attempt this, be smart about it and you should be fine. The roads are ready to handle whatever is happening out there and so are most of the vehicles. A bonus: most touristy spots like the waterfalls, the glacier lagoon and so on are pretty much directly off the main road. Road singular because there basically is just one and it’s Route 1(easy to remember).
Must see/do: (Aside from exploring the capital Reykjavik)
The Blue Lagoon, obviously. It’s touristy but awesome. Get there early to avoid crazy lines.
The Golden Circle is a tourist’s dream. As the name suggests, it’s a loop that takes you to a bunch of cool spots. Geysers, waterfalls and Þingvellir National Park to name a few, are all easy to get to if you follow along. You can complete the circle in one day too, as I discovered.
Jökulsárlón is a ways away from just about everything, but very rewarding to visit. Seeing piercing blue icebergs floating along and washing up onto a black sand shore is incredible. A bit bittersweet though because it’s global warming happening right before your very eyes.
Reynisfjara Beach is where you’ll find more black sand and unbelievable rock formations. It’s along the way to the glacier lagoon so there is really no reason not to stop by. Prepare to be amazed.
Vatnajökull is the massive but sadly retreating glacier that covers a small percentage of the island. If you venture over to the glacier lagoon you’ll be able to see it through your front windshield a good chunk of the way. And if you make it all the way you can partake in some ice cave exploration, weather permitting. I can’t speak from experience because it was too warm for that in March, but the idea was initially at the very top of my list.
* These are simply my observations, opinions and suggestions.