September 9, 2018
Most photographers I admire and follow on social media take stunning photographs of landscapes in Iceland! Besides the photographers I follow, most friends/people I follow on Instagram have traveled to Iceland recently as well to admire the stunning landscapes and waterfalls in the country. I for one was hesitant in exploring this over-hyped country, but I’m glad I went! My friend, Terona, has never traveled to Europe and wanted her first impression of Europe to be in Iceland. This trip was my last international travel of the year, and I couldn’t have picked a better country to explore!
I chose to fly in earlier and stay longer in Iceland than my friend! Through my research, I learned that the closest location from the airport is the infamous Blue Lagoon. On top of my research, I also learned that you can stay at the Blue Lagoon. There were two hotels at the Blue Lagoon: Silica Hotel and The Retreat Hotel. The main difference is that The Retreat Hotel has a spa and the Moss Restaurant located in the hotel. However, if one were to choose to stay at the Silica Hotel, one still has access to the same amenities. I ended up staying at The Retreat Hotel due to no availability at Silica Hotel. Prior to arriving to my hotel, the airline I flew from lost my luggage. The whole ordeal left me miserable, but the staff at The Retreat Hotel made my experience in Iceland so much better! I also experienced my first in-water massage!
The most impressionable thing I’ve noticed about the country so far were the people. From my taxi driver up until meeting Hrólfur, everyone was genuinely nice. People go out of their way to help one another without thinking twice. Hrólfur showed me the Thorbjorn Trail, which offers great views of Grindavik and the Atlantic Ocean! Above were photographs I took along the way besides the one of me, which was taken by Hrólfur.
When people think about Iceland, one cannot forget about the Blue Lagoon, which is an outdoor spa of mineral-rich hot water. The water supposedly has positive effects on the skin! You have to prebook reservations to the Blue Lagoon. Reservations include a free drink at the bar along with a face mask! During my trip, someone sent a DM (direct message) to me on Instagram requesting for a favor, which is to take a photograph in Iceland with a note, essentially sharing how far their love has reached for their father’s 50th birthday. Above were my captures of Blue Lagoon along with Grace’s request!
Seeing the northern lights was one of the main reasons why I wanted to visit Iceland 🇮🇸. I was somewhat discouraged this week of not having a chance to see and even capture it. However, there were a chain of events that led me in favor of seeing it: solar storm and FATE. I met another traveler tonight where we conversed about the northern lights. He told me I will see it, and my response was that not everyone is able to see it. He went on to ask if I believed in fate because that’s why he’s certain I’ll see it during my trip. Fate HAPPENED 🙌. I started off placing my camera on a trash bin and proceeded to lying on my back (improvise when you don’t bring your tripod 😅). This was my best capture, and the experience was surreal: lights dancing in the sky 🌌
My friend and I chose to base ourselves in Reykjavik. We stayed at Sandhotel by Keahotels, which was in the heart of the city. I was in awe of how modern the hotel was!
Hallgrímskirkja Church – largest Lutheran Parish Church in Iceland
The Sun Voyager – sculpture designed to look like a viking ship by Jón Gunnar Árnason
I’ve heard that Reykjavik is known for its food, especially seafood. At the same time, I also heard that prices at restaurants are expensive, above average than prices.
Rok Restaurant – delicious tapas style restaurant
Hot dog stands were very popular in Reykjavik! I’ve tried several, and the most famous one, which is not pictured, is Bæjarins Bestu. What separates hot dogs in Reykjavik versus other countries are their special sauce! If visiting, it is definitely worth trying a hot dog. Although, the lines can be long.
Sæta Svínið Gastropub – pub that offers happy hour everyday from 3pm-6m
Icelandic Horses – breed of horse developed in Iceland
Skógafoss – one of Iceland’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls and where I witnessed a double rainbow
The waterfall also has a hike up to the top view, which is in total 370 steps!
Reyniskyrka Church – church located in the town, Vic, and also a perfect spot for an elopement photo session
Solheimasandur Plane Wreck – plane wreck in Iceland’s version of Black Sand Beach
The story behind this plane wreck was the plane ran out of fuel and crashed into this beach, but everyone survived 🛩. We were en route to simply relaxing on the beach and unexpectedly ended up doing this trek, which was nowhere near the beach 😅
Seljalandsfoss – one of the most unique waterfalls I’ve seen simply because you can walk behind it all the way
My favorite sunsets have been in Greece, but the most unique sunset experience was tonight behind a waterfall 🤗.
Kerið Crater – volcanic crater lake located in Southern Iceland, along the Golden Circle
I’ve never seen wild horses, roaming in nature, yet alone being up close to horses without leashes. Being so close to these horses was a special experience. One of them, the tan colored horse, appeared to like me and followed me around. These horses were majestic and friendly. I didn’t have a hint of fear being surrounded by them.
Landmannalaugar – Icelandic highlands that is home to lava fields, hot springs, and views of colorful mountains
I wanted to hike in Iceland, but I didn’t think it would be safe hiking alone so I researched hiking day tours. Arctic Adventures offered an awesome hiking day tour with a pick up from Reykjavik! For more information on the tour, check out their website!
Iceland is known as the country of land and ice. I didn’t do much research prior to my trip, and it didn’t help that I didn’t have my luggage for a couple of days.. These were some tips I learned along the way!
- Pack an extra pair of clothes in your carry on in preparation for the unfortunate (i.e. delayed/lost luggage)!
- Utilize Reykjavik Excursions to and from Blue Lagoon; it’s cheaper than getting a taxi!
- Buy food from grocery stores during day trips so that you can save some money from eating out!
- Restaurants in Iceland are super expensive!
- Don’t be afraid in renting a car exploring Iceland!
- You don’t have to travel far to see Aurora (Northern Lights)!
- Blue Lagoon is a great spot to see Aurora.
- There are some parts in Reykjavik where you can see Aurora.
- Utilize the Aurora App to track visibility/chance in seeing Aurora.
- Bring a camera if you are thinking of capturing Aurora.
- It’s hard to photograph Aurora with your phone unless it has a live feature.
Where have I traveled in Northern Europe?