Country #58 - Iceland Day 3

The Blue Lagoon

This was the first time I’ve spent almost three whole days in a country (other than the US, obviously) and I’m so glad it was Iceland. Sydney had an earlier flight than me so we decided to actually walk around Reykjavik this morning before taking her to the airport. Our first stop was breakfast - we ate at Sandholt again and this time we actually sat down for the meal which was a good call because it was very tasty.

We then began our walk to the few spots in town to see. For the capital city of an entire country it is very tiny (but cute) and there is not a ton to see, though we definitely saw some of the highlights. Our first stop was Hallgrímskirkja church. You can see it from all over town and it is an incredibly unique design. The inside was very plain but there was an organ player playing the giant organ which was cool to see! From there we walked the main street, Laugavegur, where Sydney bought some gifts and I bought a wool sheep magnet (of course).

After we finished up on Laugavegur we headed to our last stop in town, Harpa. It was one of, if not the most, incredible Opera houses that I’ve ever seen. It was unlike anything architecturally I’ve seen before and the use of glass and light was really amazing to see from both the inside and out. After walking through we started the drive to the airport. It’s only about forty-five minutes from the city and Sydney was there in plenty of time for her flight. It was so great having someone join me for a stop, especially in Iceland! I think it would be really difficult (but obviously not impossible) to do Iceland on your own of every country that I’ve seen because there is so much driving, it can get really expensive, and seeing some of the coolest stuff ever it was nice to have a friend along to experience it with!

From the airport, I made my way to the infamous Blue Lagoon. I was not going to pay (almost $60 minimum) to go in the Blue Lagoon but I still wanted to see one of Iceland's most famous landmarks in person. I had three hours to kill before I needed to be back at the airport for my flight, and it was only a twenty-minute drive away. When I got there I found the cafe where I bought an orange juice and was able to sit and look out at the Lagoon from inside! It was definitely interesting, but I enjoyed walking around the other blue pools outside of the main entrance much more. You could get up close to the water which was better than watching a bunch of people swim around in basically an overpriced pool (that’s blue). I am glad that I saw the Blue Lagoon but also glad I didn’t pay to do it.

From the Blue Lagoon, I drove through some of the cool mossy rock landscape for a bit before turning back towards the airport. I drove past the airport to the coast where I found two cool lighthouses and also almost completely froze when walking to take their picture because it was so windy. I then drove on to the next town near the airport and just enjoyed driving around and seeing more of the country and especially the small towns because we saw so few of them. After a short drive back to the airport I returned the rental car with ease and was only a little early for my flight.


I’m really sad to leave Iceland and I can’t say enough good things about it. It was the coolest place that I’ve ever seen from the incredible landscapes throughout to Reynisfjara Beach, the Northern Lights, and everything in between. There is so much to see and I definitely recommend you put it towards the top of your list! And the good news is, even though I’m leaving Iceland at least I’m headed to Spain (and Andorra)!

58 countries down, 138 to go.

Read about my second day in Iceland here.

To learn more about Old Charm Reykjavik Apartments click here.

Country #58 - Iceland Day 2

The Northern Lights

Today we started the day off by pretty expectedly oversleeping. We were so tired and another long day was ahead of us so an hour late start was totally justified. We grabbed a quick breakfast to go from a place called Sandholt and then headed off towards the Golden Circle. The first thirty minutes of the drive were exactly the same as yesterday, and then we curved off towards the left to start the Golden Circle at Kerio.

Kerio is a giant crater formed by volcanic activity - basically, the magma drained out, the ground collapsed, and Kerio was born. That’s the gist of what I gathered, at least. We walked along the outside of it and it was a pretty quick stop as literally there is nothing to see other than a hole in the ground. From Kerio we drove on to our farthest point for the day, Gullfoss (another waterfall!). This one was pretty spectacular but, unlike Skógafoss yesterday, it actually reminded me a lot of Iguazu Falls. It basically felt like a mini Iguazu, but even at that, it was amazing and breathtaking. So much water was continually flowing over Gullfoss and it was so interesting to learn about the history as well. There are great views from the top and bottom of Gullfoss so I recommend you do both!

From Gullfoss, we drove maybe five minutes back up the road to Haukadalur. Haukadalur is an active system of geysers and is right next to a geyser called geyser which, uncoincidentally, is where the name geyser came from! The namesake is actually no longer active but it was really cool to see Haukadalur in action. It would explode to varying degrees and send water shooting up between every five and ten minutes. It was also enjoyable to walk around and see the smaller pools of water.

After Haukadalur we made our way to Þingvellir National Park. We didn’t spend a lot of time there because we didn’t have time to really walk through it, but at the main visitors' entrance there is an amazing view out over the park and you can also actually see the break in tectonic plates. This was our last stop for the day before dinner. There aren’t a ton of restaurants outside of Reykjavik near where we were so we had to drive back into the city. We ate at a cute place and I had an amazing and much-needed burger, fries, and garlic mayo. I finished the whole burger before Sydney was even halfway through proving definitively that she is the slowest eater I know.

After dinner, we stopped back by Old Charm to put on extra layers before driving forty-five minutes outside of the city to attempt to see the Northern Lights! We were too tired to even possibly try last night, and also yesterday there ended up being clouds that were not originally in the forecast (and clouds make the Northern Lights impossible to see). So all day today I gave an hourly cloud update and good news, the clouds never came! My hopes were definitely up after reading the forecast that we had a possibility of seeing them. This is the second time I’ve tried to see the Northern Lights, the first being when my brother visited me last year during study abroad and we walked around a frozen lake in Norway to no avail. So I was definitely hoping that this freezing lake experience would be a more positive one.

The drive out went from being in Reykjavik to being in the middle of nowhere in what felt like ten seconds. Once we were on the road driving to the lake I drove so slow because there was no one around and it was so dark I wanted to avoid driving off the side of a cliff into a lake that I couldn’t see. We found a parking spot on the side of the road and started to look. I had read that you never know when during the night that they will be active, so when we saw a faint light upon our arrival I almost didn’t believe it. It was really faint - so much so that we weren’t sure it was the Northern Lights. But within maybe five minutes tops we were positive. It was them! I was so excited!

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They were so cool to watch the lights move and we took pictures for about an hour and a half (keep in mind that it’s actually freezing outside). We tried so hard to take pictures that weren’t blurry and thankfully got a few good ones! There are definitely some pretty funny bloopers, though. The Northern Lights has been at the top of my list to see for a very long time, and they definitely surpassed my expectations. Seeing the Lights, coupled with more stars than you could even imagine, just did not feel like it was even real it was so cool to see and experience.

It was another successful day in Iceland and I really don’t want to leave tomorrow. Every second was amazing because even on drives across the country I was constantly enamoured with the otherworldly views of the country. I would love to come back and spend a week (or more!) driving all over the entire country, especially since we Googled it and, square mileage wise, Iceland is smaller than the state of Alabama (so very easily doable to drive the whole thing). I had no idea that Iceland was so small because like everything else near the poles of a globe it looks so large! If you weren’t convinced after day one to visit Iceland I hope that you are now. It is truly indescribable but I hope that I’ve done it at least a little justice in the blogs!

58 countries down, 138 to go.

Read about my first day in Iceland here.

Read about my third day in Iceland here.

To learn more about Old Charm Reykjavik Apartments click here.

Country #58 - Iceland Day 1

The Early Arrival

Day one of Iceland is in the books and boy what a rollercoaster of amazing emotions. I started the morning off with a 7:00am flight from Dallas to DC. I slept most of the flight and when I arrived in DC I took the metro to meet up with one of my best friends, Sydney, and her boyfriend Trevor. I’ve known Sydney since high school and we have travelled pretty much all over together, and I’m so excited that she will be visiting Iceland with me!

We had a great brunch in DC followed by a visit to the Renwick Gallery. The coolest part was definitely the special exhibition “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” which was a collection of basically tiny doll house replicas of murder scenes created by Frances Glessner Lee, a really cool lady basically known as the “mother of forensic science.” We attempted (likely unsuccessfully) to solve them all before visiting the rest of the museum. Renwick Gallery is small, free, and definitely worth a visit.

After the Renwick Sydney and I drove for an hour to Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) for our flight to Reykjavik on WOW Airlines. I had heard a lot about WOW before and I was really interested to fly them for the first time. Our terminal felt really new but unfortunately had very few food choices even though we had to eat before the flight. The one thing that I didn’t like about WOW was having to pay extra for any bag other than a personal item (make sure you do this beforehand!). We boarded easily and even though we had separate seats on the plane it ended up okay because we both had window seats to possibly help with sleeping.

It didn’t end up helping me too much, though, as it was such a bumpy flight! For probably the last four hours of a six hour flight it was pretty consistently turbulent. There were few large drops but just small bumps throughout, making it very hard to sleep window or not. Luckily I probably got an hour or two before struggling to sleep the rest of the flight. We arrived in Iceland at about 5:00am and went through immigration and customs with ease. The airport has a really interesting set up which I think is because WOW has so many connecting flights, but I had never really seen the configuration of Keflavík (KEF) Airport’s terminals before.

After waiting less than five minutes we found the rental car guy we were meeting to pick up our car. The unfortunate thing about Iceland is that you 100% need to rent a car to visit. It was definitely a hassle to find a company who would rent to my age (23) and had a good reputation. After lots of searching I finally decided to go with Route 1, a local rental agency. My only qualm is that they don’t allow drivers under 23 which means I have to drive the entire trip. However, they have the best reviews by leaps and bounds! Picking up our car was very easy - we just signed a contact at the pick up point (always read these very carefully when renting a car), were given helpful instructions about the roads in Iceland, and were then on our way!

It was a forty-five minute drive in to Reykjavik and was still pitch black outside as we learned it would be until about 8:30am. When we got into town we found a place to park and decided to nap in the car because nothing was open and our accommodations for the trip, Old Charm Apartments, were not yet ready. Also, we were both so tired. I fell asleep instantly in the backseat of the car and we ended up sleeping for about an hour and a half. When we got up I felt a thousand times better and ready to take on our first full day in Iceland! We grabbed a quick breakfast and hot chocolate, planned out our day, and then set off on quite literally an adventure.

The Other Planet

Today’s drive was 100% the most incredibly beautiful drive of my entire life. Every thirty minutes the landscape seemed to change entirely. From the sprawling moss covered rocks to the ocean views and mountainous fields it is impossible to describe (so I’ll add some pictures). There were also lots of sheep, rams, and horses everywhere you looked. Today we decided to drive up the coast towards the town of Vik. Our first stop, about thirty minutes out, was a horse farm but it was unfortunately closed. After another thirty minutes of driving (and an intense debate on Taylor Swift’s feminism) we arrived at our first stop of the day, Seljalandsfoss.

As we quickly came to learn, foss means waterfall. The bar is set pretty high for me on waterfalls ever since visiting Iguazu Falls, but Seljalandsfoss was something completely different. You could walk all the way around Seljalandsfoss! It was freezing to do so as mist from the falls was everywhere but it was so cool. It was of course beautiful just like the land around it. There was a second waterfall down a path about a ten minute walk away and it was definitely worth seeing - it was hidden back in a cave! After only an hour drive and stop number one in Iceland I was completely and totally blown away.


The next leg of the drive was another hour. We drove to Dyrhólaey and were amazed when the landscape changed from the mossy rocks to radiant fields filled with plateaus. We attempted to play a game where you go down the alphabet and name things in a specific category and I was both very bad at understanding the rules and subsequently bad at playing the game. But that didn’t really matter because the drive was just so beautiful. I think the best way to describe Iceland would be to say that it either looks like something straight out of a movie (many movies film here including Star Wars) or that it looks like another planet (or multiple other planets in my opinion).

Dyrhólaey was so cool. I know that I am going to use way too many adjectives in this post, and likely the same ones over and over again, but it would be impossible not to. Iceland is just repeatedly indescribable. Dyrhólaey was basically a plateau that you drive straight up the side of. It was a one lane road and needless to say I was a bit panicked when having to pass a bus while hoping that it didn’t fall off the side of a cliff. One thing Iceland could use is a few more guard rails. We decided to call my driving in stressful situations (like the side of a cliff) as really good but lacking grace. Which is appropriate because I was, indeed, slightly freaking out. It was so worth it though. The views from the top were just amazing. On one side was the water, where there was the black beach and incredible rock formations.

The black beach was really interesting to see from above (we would see it up close later) because the water was basically white, so the lines that the tide formed on the shore were such a cool contrast. We walked over towards the edge overlooking the ocean where there was a cool lighthouse. Looking out at the water were two different rock formations. One was close by and was a huge formation with a hole in the middle. I can’t do the description justice so see the pictures below. Off in the distance was a second formation which, from afar, looked like the rocks from Harry Potter when they go to the cave in the Half Blood Prince to get the horcrux. We later discovered that this was filmed in Ireland but it looked so similar! Honestly, Iceland looks a lot like Ireland at times and also looks a lot like what I imagine New Zealand will look like.

The last view was looking back inland at what we had just driven through and it was, once again, just stunning. The drive back down was much less perilous (there were no busses thank God) and we decided to drive over to the Harry Potter looking rock formation. We missed our turn but right past where we should have turned we found about seven wild horses! People were pulled over to pet them and they were so sweet. They were obviously very used to people and posed perfectly for pictures. It was definitely a good turn to miss to be able to see the horses!


We then made our way back to the Harry Potter rocks which we discovered were called Reynisfjara Beach. It doesn’t get discussed as much on things to do in Iceland lists as things like the Golden Circle (which I continually accidentally referred to as the Ring of Fire) or the Blue Lagoon, but it was both of ours’ favorite stop of the trip, and one of the coolest things I have ever seen. First there was the black beach, which was cool enough in itself and is actually made of lava. Then there were the rocks out in the water that looked like Harry Potter rocks. Then there was the absolute coolest rock formation I’ve ever seen on the shore. They were like stacked rectangularly would be the only way I know how to describe them but they are actually basalt columns (see pictures for sure). Then there were the circular rocks between the beach and the land that helped add to the other planet mystique. Then you could see where we just were, Dyrhólaey, off in the distance. And finally, there were the waves.

They were the largest waves I have ever seen by at least ten times. They were ten, maybe twenty feet, when they broke into the land. They were amazing and terrifying at the same time. I was actually, unfortunately, attacked by a wave which was less than ideal. It only soaked my shoes (which were waterproof but apparently not enough) and the bottom of my jeans, but it was freezing. It was the only wave to hit where I was standing the entire time we were there and there was no way to out run it. Sydney was off to the side and it didn’t come in as far where she was. My shoes were filled with sand and I was so cold but luckily our luggage was still in the car so I was able to change into clean (and more importantly dry) clothes! I was very lucky not to have dropped anything (I was carrying my phone, GoPro, and camera at the time) and to only have to deal with getting sand out of my shoes and camera.

Even after being hit by the wave Reynisfjara Beach gets five star, A+ reviews. If you can do one thing in Iceland, in my opinion it would be Reynisfjara Beach. It completely embodies the feeling of what it would be like to be on another planet and is so beyond cool that it did not feel or look real. After changing clothes we started driving back towards Reykjavik as the sun was starting to set. We had one last stop, though, at Skógafoss (another waterfall). It was long and skinny and beautiful but by this point I was still frozen from the water and actually bordering on exhaustion so it was not a super long stop.


The drive back was painful because it was two hours and I was jetlagged while running on maybe three hours of sleep. We attempted to play the naming game again and I was getting worse and worse as the sleep deprivation (and now hunger) wore on. We finally arrived back in Reykjavik where we met Steinnum at Old Charm Apartments. I cannot thank Old Charm Apartments enough for sponsoring our stay in Reykjavik! She showed us to our super cute apartment (it could fit seven people!) that was right in the center of town. The rooms were adorable and, most importantly, warm.


Before we left for dinner I worked to clean sand out of a few things. We headed to a restaurant that only served soup and I wasn’t a fan of either choice (picky eater problems) but it was a really cute spot. It was super late (about 10pm) so I just ate a snack when we got back to tide me over until tomorrow, which wasn’t a problem considering how tired I was. I washed my socks, scooped handfuls of sand out of my shoes, and rinsed the sand off of my jeans. The only problem with the entire day (besides exhaustion) was for some reason the alarm in our apartment went off at 1:00am. I wasn’t asleep yet (Sydney was) but it definitely startled me!

It was pretty funny honestly attempting to figure out how to turn it off while someone came to help us. Sydney ended up holding a bucket with a towel inside of it over the alarm - it felt like the episode of Friends where Phoebe tries to silence her alarm! We eventually got it resolved thanks to Steinnum’s husband and afterwards I had no problem whatsoever falling asleep after such an incredible day! I’m in love with Iceland already (can you tell?) and can’t wait to see so much more tomorrow when we take on the Golden Circle route.

58 countries down, 138 to go.

Read about my second day in Iceland here.

To learn more about Old Charm Reykjavik Apartments click here.