Traveling to Iceland was not on the top of our list for vacation/honeymoon choices but it just kept coming up. Jon and I had both always wanted to go but we couldn't decide if this would be the time we finally booked our tickets. It wasn't until this past Christmas when we watched the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Ben Stiller that we finally made our decision. Ben (Walter) ends up in Iceland on an epic adventure trying to find a Photographer after he loses a very important photo negative. We walked out of the theater, looked at each other and said "We have to go". The next day, the planning began.
We started reading reviews, blogs, books on Iceland to find out what we just couldn't miss. On the top of our list was The Golden Circle which includes three primary stops, the National Park Thingvellir, the waterfall Gullfoss and the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir & Strokkur. Next on the must see list was exploring the city (Reykjavik), visiting the infamous Blue Lagoon and Jon was determined to hang with the Icelandic horses.
Our first few days were spent in the city. At first, we were a little lost as we walked from our apartment down to the main walking street. The very first sight we came across was Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran parish church which happens to be the largest church in Iceland. It's big. By day two, we felt like we had mastered the lay of the land and we were so excited about some awesome little shops and cafe's we came across. One of our favorites was Cafe Babalu - The photos don't do it justice. You'll just have to go to see the charm and quirkiness of this little place. Don't forget to use the restroom while you're there. You won't regret it.
We didn't know it but Icelandic children were celebrating Öskudagur ("Ash Day") on our second day in the city. We were greeted by kids in costumes singing to the clerks in exchange for candy at almost every store and restaurant. We couldn't understand their songs but they sounded beautiful and their costumes were great!
You'll notice in the photos, street art is EVERYWHERE in Reykjavik. It's really something to see. Every wall, every corner, every abandoned building is covered in colorful, beautiful art. I think I could have filled an entire memory card with street art alone. I kind of wish I had...
After the third day in the city, we decided it was time to start our Golden Circle adventure. There were many tours that would take you through the GC but we decided it would be more of an experience to do it on our own. We rented a car and began our journey. It was the perfect day to begin traveling. The sun was out and the views were incredible. We've traveled many an open road before but nothing like these. We really felt like we were the only people in the world as we drove through the mountains. Clean, clear and white all around.
During our tour, we stayed at Hotel Grimsborgir, a luxury hotel in Thingvallavegur. We checked in and were greeted by the Hotel's owner. He was too sweet for words. He told us our room would be ready in just a few minutes so we sat down in the lobby's restaurant and waited until he walked over to let us know the room was ready. He told us that instead of us getting the studio room we had reserved, he was going to give us a 4 bedroom apartment which included 2 private hot tubs, a full kitchen, dining room and two living rooms. He said, "Congratulations on your honeymoon. Enjoy your stay." We were ecstatic and so grateful! The place was absolutely beautiful. If only we had our friends and family there with us to fill up the rooms. My favorite feature was the heated floors. :) If you are planning a visit to Iceland, I would highly recommend spending a night or two at Hotel Grimsborgir. Not only were the accommodations perfect but the restaurant was out of this world. Perhaps the best salmon I'd ever tasted.
We had plenty of snow during our travels but nothing stopped us from taking in the breathtaking views. After our GC tour was complete, we spent a full day hanging out at our Grimsborgir villa & thank God we did! The wind gusts were over 50mph. We wouldn't have lasted long outside. We had been warned by the rental car staff that our doors would literally fly off of our car if we didn't hold them tight. Luckily, no doors were lost. Jon did run out to the store and saw about 10 cars that had been blown right off the road. It was no joke.
After a couple of days in the South, we headed back to the city. Our final apartment location could not have been more ideal. It was on the main walking street and steps away from what we were about to discover as the best Taco joint in Iceland. Bunk Bar & Cafe served up the most delicious steak, chicken, calamari and pork tacos. Their edamame was also delicious. Don't miss out on this place. It's also a Hostel if you need a place to rest your head after your taco induced coma.
Due to the weather we didn't know if we'd get any skiing in but we decided we would go for it and head to Bláfjöll Ski Resort. The mountain was pretty empty and pretty small. It didn't matter to us! We were so happy to have an Icelandic ski mountain all to ourselves and the weather ended up being great! We bought a 1 hour pass and that's really all we needed or we would have been bored out of our minds. The views from the top of the mountain were spectacular. I left my camera at the apartment for this little excursion but there's some footage in the video you'll find at the end of this post.
Blue Lagoon was our final stop on the trip. Despite the rain and wind, we enjoyed about 5 hours of swimming through the lagoon and resting up in the lookout area sipping on café lattes. It was the perfect way to relax before our flight home the next day. Ladies, take advantage of their shower caps. Due to all of the minerals in the water, your hair will act quite funky for a few days after your swim. It's been 5 days since our visit and my hair is FINALLY getting back to normal.
All in all, we had an amazing time. We wouldn't have changed a thing. Jonathan celebrated his 26th Birthday while we were there so that was pretty special. His gift was spending quality time with the beautiful horses. I was able to snap a few pics of him with his new friends. We would love to go back in a couple of years but I think we would try Summer the second time around. If you decide on Iceland for your next trip, feel free to contact me or comment here for ideas or advice on accommodations, day trips, rental cars, restaurants or anything else you might need or want to know. It's a trip we'll remember forever. I hope you enjoy the photos.