I recently moved from Utah to Boston, Massachusetts for work. One of the top perks that comes with moving to a new city is exploring areas of the world that are now closer than they were before. For me, this means the nearby states that I haven’t spent much time in, like Maine, New York, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. But the real draw for me was being much closer to Europe, especially Iceland. Now just a short non-stop 5 hour flight, I get to take advantage of the proximity.
Iceland has a certain draw, especially for those who enjoy any outdoor activities. The landscape is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and the opportunities for hiking, trekking, biking, kayaking, spelunking, etc,. are seemingly endless. The country is relatively small, approximately the size of Kentucky (according to nationsonline.org), but has so much natural beauty at every turn that it feels like an entire world of its own. Iceland is a land of waterfalls, vast mountains, glacial lakes, black sand beaches, and volcanic hot springs. It is the mecca for hot & cold activities, hot being the country’s well known natural and man-made hot springs, cold being all things ice (ice caves, icebergs, glacial lakes, and massive snow storms (in winter season)).
My favorite natural perks in Iceland:
- No mosquitoes at all, even in the summer
- No dangerous animals for humans – the largest natural predator is the arctic fox
- 24-hours of daylight in the summer solstice
- All freshwater rivers/streams are safe to drink from!
Best explored by a bicycle or vehicle with 4-wheel-drive, there is endless opportunity for fun. This past summer I spent 5 days in Iceland seeing as much as I possibly could of the southern coast. Here’s what my partner and I did each day:
Explored the beautiful city of Reykjavik.
We happened to be there on Iceland National Day (June 17) and were able to experience the festivities in the heart of Reykjavik. This included a parade through the city, music, dancing, and many flags! We visited the iconic Hallgrimskirkja Church. Located in the heart of the city, this church is stunning inside and out. You can walk the grounds anytime and visit inside as well as ride up to the clock tower during their visitor hours. We checked out the cutest little shops, bookstores, and grabbed a warm cup of coffee and pastries for lunch.
After exploring the city, I did something a bit different from what I usually do on trips like this: I bought my partner and a couples spa day package at Sky Lagoon Iceland. I had wanted to go to the famous Blue Lagoon, but after doing some research on prices and amenities, I decided on Sky Lagoon. It’s honestly the best $250 I’ve ever spent (couples “date night” package that included private dressing rooms, two drinks, and a gourmet cheese platter) and this became an absolute Iceland must for me. You participate in a 7-step ritual process beginning and ending in a stunning hot spring lagoon overlooking the ocean. Here you can buy drinks straight from the pool and enjoy the breathtaking views. When you feel ready, you can move from the pool to the rest of the steps which include: polar plunge, dry sauna, cool mist, salt scrub, wet sauna, relaxing shower. Afterwards you can head back to the locker room or the lagoon for more drinks.
After exploring the city and having an incredibly relaxing spa day, we drove down to Hella to stay the night
Road trip from Hella to Kirkjubæjarklaustur to see waterfalls and rivers (Seljalandsfoss, Sauðafoss, and Skógafoss). Spent the day exploring the surrounding areas and walking on the nearby paths. We stopped at every waterfall on the short 2 hour drive.
We also stopped at Hálsanefshellir Cave which has the iconic basalt columns and beautiful beach. Nearby we also visited Dyrhólaey cliffs and Lighthouse overlooking the shore. At certain times of year, you can see puffins from these cliffs.
Later in the day as we were headed to where we were staying, we came across a stunning wildflower field and stopped to explore and take some photos. These flowers are everywhere during the summer season.
We made it safely to our Airbnb just outside Klaustur and enjoyed a late night dinner watching the sun dip but not set.
Day trip to Skaftafell National Park. I was so excited to go here and hike because I didn’t get to it my first time in Iceland. This is an absolutely breathtaking national park filled with rivers, massive glaciers, mountains, and plenty of hiking trails.
We hiked to the Svartifoss waterfall (I did drink straight from this waterfall which felt unnatural but the water was delicious) and did the Skaftafellsheiði trail which took us up to a stunning viewpoint, down to the glacier valley, bridge over the river, back to the visitor’s center. The trail was about 17 km round trip and we were TIRED at the end, but so glad we did it.
After this we headed up to Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon which is top 5 most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The sun was shining through the clouds onto the lagoon and it created an unreal view of the water and the ice. I sat for an hour just taking in the views.
Next we headed to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Diamond beach. Some avid Iceland travelers from England told us that we need to visit this place at multiple times in the day. When the tide is in, the icebergs are all up in the lagoon and there aren’t any on the beach. Apparently the tide going out is quite a sight to see. We heard stories of massive icebergs speeding by out to the ocean. This is when Diamond Beach is at its best. It was so cold and windy that I hardly took any photos, but it was amazing to see.
The drive back to our Airbnb was about 2.5 hours after hiking and seeing the glacier lagoons/beach, but we had to make a stop at Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon. This is one of my favorite spots in southern Iceland and we were lucky to visit at 10:00 PM when there were no crowds and a beautiful sunset.
We spent the day exploring Vik. Walked up to the church, did some shopping, spent time at the beach, and ate a traditional Icelandic fish stew and lamb stew. Next we drove to Sólheimajökull glacier and lagoon. This is where I was finally able to touch a glacier for the first time! The views were absolutely stunning with the blue ice and green mountains in the distance.
Next we headed to Selfoss where we stayed the night near the beach in luxury glamping tents at Camp Boutique. We absolutely loved staying here. They were beautifully designed and decorated with everything cozy. They have heated sheets and space heaters to make sure you are toasty warm. We will definitely stay here again.
We loved Camp Boutique so much that we spent much of the morning and afternoon at their lodge enjoying listening to the rain on the roof and the crackling of the fire. This was our last day in Iceland and we took it slow. It was also the worst weather day of the trip (we were lucky!) so we stayed inside for most of the day. After leaving Camp Boutique, we grabbed some pizza as a late lunch in Selfoss and headed to the airport to drop off the rental car and fly home. We were sad to leave but loved our trip and are excited to plan the next one! Hopefully in winter next time.