Where to even begin!? Hannah, Abby and I just experienced the trip of a lifetime in Reykjavik, Iceland. To be honest, I had never considered traveling to Iceland until Hannah brought it up while making our list of places to see while living abroad. Its easy to forget about this country, being that it is smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Now I can say that Iceland is an unforgettable place and I can't wait to go back again.
We woke up bright and early at 4 am on Friday and headed for London Luton Airport. One 3 hour flight (two hours of which were spent napping) later and we landed in rainy Reykjavik. Despite the gloomy weather, we were refreshed and ready to rally. We checked into our Airbnb in downtown Reykjavik and were blown away by how nice it was. We all decided that if our first apartments are half as nice as this place we will be lucky. We dropped our bags and hit the ground running.
We spent the rest of the day window shopping and soaking up Reykjavik's quaint charm. A pit stop for Nutella crepes was a must and we were ready to head back to the apartment for a nap. After resting, we woke up in time for a late dinner of brick-oven pizza. Later that night we felt inspired to explore the Reykjavik nightlife scene. We certainly had an authentic experience as our first bar was full of locals, making us feel slightly out of place, but charmed just the same. We stopped into two more bars (and took a requisite photo with a mural of Harambe) before making the short walk back to our Airbnb for bedtime.
After sleeping in, we woke up the next morning excited for a day ahead at Iceland's most famous tourist spot-- The Blue Lagoon! Lucky for us, Saturday was our only rain-free day in Iceland, but nevertheless extremely chilly-- perfect for a day spent in an outdoor hot spring. The lagoon was definitely a tourist trap but it was still a fantastic experience. We splurged with our rented bathrobes and spent hours floating in the lagoon, putting on mud masks and soaking until we turned into literal prunes. The Lagoon was also a great people-watching spot- a group of 30 American tourists were also visiting to celebrate their friend's 30th birthday. Each and every one of these people were absolute characters. The birthday boy's Aunt Deb was documenting every detail of her experience in the Blue Lagoon on Facebook Live and even interviewed us on the spot while our faces were covered in mud. Hopefully nobody we know was watching :)
All that floating in the Lagoon made us work up quite the appetite. When we returned to Reykjavik we were starving and stopped at an Italian restaurant called Rossopomodoro for spaghetti. After the meal, We were exhausted and hit the hay early after jamming out to a little Christmas music (a nightly ritual for the three of us that began the day after Halloween). Judge us.
Sunday was an early morning as we had booked an all-day tour in the South Shore of Iceland. Our tour guide Addy picked us up in front of the apartment at 7:30 am. Since Iceland is so far north, the days are darker for much longer in the winter. This made a 7:30 wakeup next to impossible and it actually didn't get light out until close to 11 am. Our van made its way down the south coast, stopping at many breathtaking spots along the way.
Our first stop on the tour was this famous waterfall which we were actually able to walk behind. The combination of freezing/pouring rain and the splashing of water from the falls was chilling but the view was worth it. After taking it in and snapping some pics, we scurried back to the heated van.
The second waterfall we saw was a bit larger. It was situated next to a farm with beautiful Icelandic horses roaming around. Our tour guide told us that Icelandic livestock are unique in that they have never been bred with animals outside of Iceland since the settlement so they have adapted for centuries in order to handle the extreme climate. By the way, now is the perfect opportunity to mention that I am not a nun, despite the confusing outfit choice. Just a girl trying not to get her hair wet-- you know how it is!
Reynisfjara (Black Beach)
Let's just say I have been pinning photos of this beach on Pinterest for months now so my excitement when we arrived at the Black Beach was unsurmountable. Iceland is a volcanic island and the black beach is actually a by-product of the basalt and lava that rose from the ocean when Iceland first formed. While it is unbelievably beautiful, it is equally dangerous. Extreme waves and a very strong current make the Black Beach Iceland's most dangerous beach. The pictures don't do this place justice. It surpassed my expectations and I would love to return at some point.
Every direction I turned just took my breath away-- even the view from the parking lot!
After a long day of touring the South Shore, we were hungry. Our Airbnb host recommended Grillmarkadurinn (Grill Market), which was on the nicer end aka more expensive than other Icelandic restaurants which were already ridiculously expensive. We found out that we had actually dined at the exact same table as Dr. Dre and Gordon Ramsay, and that earlier this year the Kardashians and Kanye West also got dinner there. So you could say it was a pretty fab restaurant. The food was amazing and we had a great waiter, Steff. He brought us dessert (on him)-- an intricate hollow chocolate globe which he poured warm melted chocolate on.
Our flight out of Iceland wasn't until late Monday evening so we spent the whole of Monday sightseeing in Reykjavik. It was so nice to see the beauty that lies within Iceland's nature but to also have the chance to see the city as well. It is a colorful city filled with a mix of old and new architecture and the perfect balance of touristy shops and more authentic boutiques and cafes. The two highlights of Monday were the famous church called Hallgrimskirkja (say that 3 times fast!) and the Harpa Concert Hall.