A lot of people have asked, "Why Iceland?" Well, why not? I've had my fair share of tropical beach vacations - spending endless hours in the sun (burning) and throwing back multiple frozen beverages before noon. I'm kind of over it. I was up for an adventure to explore somewhere that is unlike New England and the complete opposite of a tan-filled beach bar. Iceland it was!
Luckily, my best friend was on the same page. We started planning this trip back in August - which seemed so far away at the time. But, they say the best part about a trip is the planning and everything that goes into leading up to the big departure, right? There really is SO much to do, see and eat in Iceland, that I don't think you can go wrong. For Part 1, I'll be sharing some of the plans we made ahead of time.
We heard and read that everything in Iceland is SUPER expensive. Well, I'm here to tell you that the rumors are true. For example: a cup of soup and bottle of beer for lunch was $34. Yikes! Knowing this, we did our best to save on our flight. We ended up booking WOW Air. Again, we heard some pretty terrible things going into this flight, but even on different flights (I flew out of Boston and my friend out of Miami), we both experienced a decent flight. Keep in mind that everything costs money onboard this airline - water, snacks, etc. Also, there's no entertainment or WIFI. Pure self entertainment for 5 hours. This actually helped me to sleep because I probably would have stayed up the entire flight and been exhausted when landing at 4:30AM local time. Be prepared to buy drinks and food at the airport.
We opted to book our stay through Airbnb. Our 1-bedroom apartment was super cute, clean and conveniently located to most places. We had one walk across town that was 20 minutes, but not bad at all. We met quite a few people who were all staying at hostels. Personally, I've never stayed in a hostel, but after seeing a few of the hostels in Reykjavik, I am now not totally opposed. I'd recommend Galaxy or Kex Hostel. In comparing prices, it seemed to be the same as our Airbnb.
To say that we both did a ton of research about what to do/see, would be an understatement. We came across one blog that recommended Your Day Tours. This travel company specializes in 2 day tours: The Golden Circle and The Southern Coast. We were both so happy with Your Day Tours because it is a more intimate size group - no more than 20 people on the tour. And, the tour guides we had were both super knowledgable about Iceland - history, fun facts, holiday traditions, and even provided some local delicacies (smoked lamb on bread) and a malted beverage.
I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with Your Day Tours for the Southern Coast Tour. The family-run business, 3 brothers, really go out of their way in selecting tour guides who truly care about their guests and want to make it a memorable experience from start to finish. And an added bonus, they have an incredible Spotify playlist of Icelandic music that includes Of Monsters and Men. I did NOT realize they were from Iceland.
I gotta be honest for a minute here: I didn't do any of the research on restaurants. This was all Stephanie! However, my girl DID NOT DISAPPOINT. Here are my top recommendations:
grillmarkadurinn - We had a reservation for this restaurant a few weeks in advance. I am not the most adventurous eater, but this place is known for local Icelandic dishes. We opted to go with the Tasting Menu and WOW, WOW, WOW. 8 dishes of pure deliciousness. I tried each and every dish. Aside from the dessert medley, my favorite was the whale. Two thumbs up for this restaurant!
Kex Hostel - Another amazing restaurant. Finding this place was a bit of a challenge - there's no sign. AND, it's inside a hostel. Once you find your way upstairs and into the gastro pub, it's hard to leave. The ambiance, music, crazy-good menu.... we loved it all. Get the Baked goatcheese on grilled brioch bread and figs - omg I want it right now. Below is the Grilled Chorizo dish and Crispy fried rice - both are top notch!
That's it for Part 1 of my Iceland travel guide. This should help you plan your trip before you get there. Part 2 (coming REALLY soon) will feature more of what I wore, what we saw, and some fun activities that we did (including beverages, duh!)
Have you traveled to Iceland? I'd love to swap stories and hear some of your favorite things that you did and where you ate. Feel free to leave comments below!