Featured | Iceland | Travel

Iceland: My Recommendations, Part 1

August 22, 2013

It had been three months since our trip to Ice­land so I guess it’s about time that I write some­thing about it.

I had been putting off writ­ing it down, part­ly because I didn’t think my words could do jus­tice to the expe­ri­ence, and part­ly because I hat­ed to admit that it was all over. I think my hus­band is tired of hear­ing me lament about how bad­ly I want to go back to Ice­land like I’ve been doing since the day we were back in Canada.

I don’t think I’ll be able to write every sin­gle detail of the trip, but I can sure­ly rec­om­mend a few things to those think­ing of vis­it­ing Ice­land in the future or research­ing for a trip there. I had a lot of fun read­ing a lot of blog posts about Ice­land while research­ing for our trip and I’m writ­ing this hop­ing that some­one out there will have as much fun as read­ing my posts. I’m going to write down my rec­om­men­da­tions in a few install­ments. In this first install­ment, I’m just going to write about the high­lights of South Ice­land and the East Fjords (accord­ing to me any­way; your mileage may vary), so here goes:

DO catch a red-eye flight to Ice­land with Ice­landair if you’re fly­ing from Toron­to for a chance to see the North­ern Lights from 37,000 feet above the sea lev­el and catch a glimpse of Green­land! You might have to stay up all night for that, which we were forced to do due to a cry­ing, kick­ing and scream­ing baby sit­ting next to us, but I like to think of it as a bless­ing in dis­guise. The view of the North­ern Lights high up in the sky and of the fjords of Green­land with ice­bergs float­ing free into the open sea was total­ly worth stay­ing up to.

A glimpse of Greenland in early morning light.
A glimpse of Green­land in ear­ly morn­ing light.

DO vis­it the Blue Lagoon! It might be a bit touristy and pricey, and there might be some old­er Amer­i­can ladies who would pas­sive-aggres­sive­ly bitch about you for doing the Ice­landic thing in the show­er room, name­ly not being mod­est (first-hand expe­ri­ence; for­tu­nate­ly I was too tired to care), but you want to go there. It’s love­ly. A nice, long soak at the Blue Lagoon is just what you need after a red-eye flight with zero sleep like we had. Unfor­tu­nate­ly my camera’s mem­o­ry card crapped out on me so I have no good pic­tures of it. :-(

Elliðaey, with not-Björk-house on the left-hand side.
Elliðaey, with not-Björk-house on the left-hand side.

DO take the fer­ry to vis­it the island of Heimaey! Even if you can’t catch a boat tour around the island, the fer­ry ride would give you a glimpse of the beau­ty of the West­man Islands in gen­er­al, and allow you to see that lit­tle house in the small island of Elliðaey that is rumoured to be the prop­er­ty of Björk (it’s not; it’s real­ly just a puffin hunt­ing lodge). Also, if you rent a car, do book the fer­ry in advance so you can take your car with you to the island. I wish that we’d had. We would’ve seen so much more of the island. We did take a bus tour around Heimaey with a very knowl­edge­able guide from Viking Tours but we didn’t get to stop at most of the places we want­ed to stop at due to time con­straint. But seri­ous­ly, Heimaey is beau­ti­ful. Do go there!

A view of the coast from Heimaey.
A view of the coast from Heimaey.

DO vis­it Sel­javal­lalaug! It’s not real­ly as dif­fi­cult to find as some peo­ple made it sound. Just make sure you wear water­proofed boots because you’ll have to cross a stream to get there. In case you’ve nev­er heard of the won­der that is Sel­javal­lalaug, it’s a sort of aban­doned swim­ming pool by the side of Eyjaf­jal­la­jökull (you know, the vol­cano that erupt­ed in 2010 and no one knew how to pro­nounce) and the set­ting is breath­tak­ing­ly beau­ti­ful! Water from a hot spring flows into this swim­ming pool which keeps the pool warm (not hot, just luke­warm). And yes, you can swim in it. It’s a rel­a­tive­ly short and easy walk to the pool from the park­ing spot. About 20 min­utes, or half an hour if you’re a slow walk­er like me. This blog post has a rough map to the pool loca­tion that you might find help­ful.

Seljavallalaug swimming pool, one of Iceland's best-kept secret.
Sel­javal­lalaug swim­ming pool, one of Iceland’s best-kept secret.

DO vis­it Jökul­sár­lón, the beau­ti­ful glacial lagoon. I’d rec­om­mend you park at one of the park­ing lots by the side of the road just before the bridge by the vis­i­tor cen­tre (if you come from the West; after the bridge if you come from the East) and climb up the hill for a jaw-drop­ping view of the lagoon. Also be sure to check out the black sand beach across the street from the lagoon to see pieces of glacial ice scat­tered on the sand, look­ing like huge chunks of dia­mond.

Doesn't it look like a big chunk of diamond?
Doesn’t it look like a big chunk of dia­mond?

DO stop at Djúpivogur and check out the water­front for a beau­ti­ful view of the fjord with the tow­er­ing moun­tain range in the back­ground. It was the only town we stopped at as we drove through the East Fjords and it didn’t dis­ap­point.

The lighthouse in Djupivogur has the most beautiful background.
The light­house in Djupivogur has the most beau­ti­ful back­ground.

DO have a lunch buf­fet at Klaus­turkaf­fi in Skriðuk­laus­tur. It costs about $20 per per­son but for an all-you-can-eat buf­fet of authen­tic, home­made, East­ern Ice­landic food, it’s a steal! When we were there, the menu includes rein­deer meat­balls, a fish casserole, and, my favourite, lamb ten­der­loin stew which I still dream about every now and then. It was so good! There was also a small selec­tion of soups and sal­ads, cakes for desserts, and a good selec­tion of teas, all includ­ed in the price. You won’t regret it!

Skriðuklaustur housed a museum and a cafe with excellent buffet menu.
Skriðuk­laus­tur housed a muse­um and a cafe with excel­lent buf­fet menu.

DO vis­it Bor­gar­fjörður eystri! It’s an amaz­ing­ly beau­ti­ful place between the moun­tains and the sea. It is in fact my favourite place in Ice­land. I could stay there forever! It’s sup­posed to be a hiker’s par­adise but we were there a bit too ear­ly in the sea­son and most of the trails were still cov­ered with snow. How­ev­er, we came just in time for the puffin sea­son. Be sure to vis­it the obser­va­tion plat­form by the mari­na (Haf­narhólmi Har­bour) to check out the puffins up close and for free!

This goofy guy was standing about a meter away from me, posing for my camera. Such a great model!
This goofy guy was stand­ing about a meter away from me, pos­ing for my cam­era. Such a great mod­el!

In the next install­ment, I will write about the high­lights (and may­be a few not-so-high­lights) of North Ice­land and West Ice­land. Unfor­tu­nate­ly we didn’t have enough time to vis­it the West Fjords but we will some­day! Stay tuned for my next post!

2 Comments

  1. Found this post through your Ice­land in April post via Google. Two ques­tions – is there any­thing you wouldn’t do north, west or above, in April (weath­er wise)? 

    We’ll have 6 days, hus­band wants to pri­ori­tise north­ern lights chas­ing at some point. What would you 100% not miss from your trip? 

    Love­ly post, thanks for shar­ing!

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