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July 20, 2012 · filed under travel

2.5 days in Iceland

Whoever is in charge of the marketing for Iceland and/or IcelandAir should definitely get some kind of award, because the only reason Andrew and I even went to Iceland was because of the ads I kept seeing everywhere for the airline, and the fact that you can have a multi-day layover on your way to or from Europe for no additional cost. When we booked our family trip to Norway, there was no reason not to add a mini-trip to Iceland just for us.

Iceland is….on another planet, it seems. I don’t even know how to describe it. The landscape changes from lush green farmland (albeit with almost no trees) to post-apocalyptic, black-rocked lava fields in a matter of minutes. We saw such a tiny fraction of the island, but I’d love to see more.

Also, from the minute you step on an IcelandAir flight, you get this feeling that Iceland is obsessed with itself. Iceland loves Iceland! Perhaps this is a necessity for a country that thrives on tourism, but I’ve never before felt it quite like this when I’ve entered a new country. Here’s how we spent our 2.5 days.

Lodging: Airbnb for the win! We stayed in this little studio just outside the main part of Reykjavik. It was super affordable and just what we needed after spending a week with a dozen family members.

Eating: We were pretty sick of Scandinavian food by this point (sorry, dried-salted-reconstituted-codfish, YUCK!) but we did have one excellent meal at an Indian restaurant, of all things. We also ate at Iceland’s “most famous restaurant,” which is a hot dog stand. Unfortunately, the hot dogs are better at Costco. I guess I’d say this – don’t go to Iceland for the food.

famous hot dog stand

Day 1: We rented a car so we could get out of Reykjavik and drive the countryside. This was a great decision, as evidenced by the photos. We drove the popular “Golden Circle” route, which took us to an ancient parliamentary site with some good geology, a field of geysers, a really fantastic waterfall.

driving the Golden Circle

tectonic plates meeting each other





As you can see, the weather was pretty overcast. I’d love to see all of these sights in the sunshine. Someday, maybe.

Day 2: In the morning we took a bike tour through Reykjavik. Due to my so-so biking skills and the extra weight I’m carrying, I didn’t really take photos of this part. However, I’d totally recommend the tour to anyone. We learned more on the tour about the country, the people, and the history than through any other way. Our guide was really patient and answered our many questions along the various stops.

And! My bike was named Björk and we rode by Björk’s house. Björk did not appear to be home. But if you and I ever travel to Iceland together, I will be able to show you where Björk lives. (Her house is black and faces the ocean.)

In the afternoon we (barf) went on a boat (barf) out in the the choppy ocean (barf) to see whales and puffins (barf). It was cold and windy, so we got to wear some pretty serious suits!

Whale Watching Attire

Flying puffins!

I’m mostly glad we did the tour, but I could have used a little more whale- and puffin-seeing and a little less (barf), if you know what I mean.

Day 2.5: This is the day we would have gone to the Blue Lagoon, if only my OB hadn’t explicitly banned me from going there. (I begged him to reconsider, BEGGED!) Instead of spending 40 Euros at the Blue Lagoon, we drove our little car down to the local pool and swam with the regular people (who all wear speedos, btw). For $4 we had access to the 50 meter lap pool, the huge non-lap pool, the waterslides, about 6 different hot tubs of varying temperatures, and the locker rooms and showers. Andrew joined the hordes of 6-year-olds on the waterslide many times, and I solidly beat him in a game of water basketball HORSE. It ended up being just perfect, very cheap, and felt authentic.

Overall: Iceland is just a five hour flight from the East Coast, so I can definitely see us going back someday. I’d love to drive around the entire country, and I’d love to lay in the Blue Lagoon for about three days straight. But even just two and a half days there was a wonderful trip.

One more thing – I kept hearing that “Iceland is cheap!” but really, it’s not. Since their economy crashed two years ago, it’s MUCH more cheaper. Like by 50%. But really that just makes Iceland affordable now. I don’t think I could stomach going there again if the prices were doubled. I’d guess that a frugal-ish weekend in Iceland would probably run you the same price as a frugal-ish weekend in Washington, DC. Not expensive, but certainly not cheap.

Up next, Norway! (Just as soon as my mom and I finished editing 2,000 photos…yikes.)



  1. heidikins
    July 20, 2012 4:30 pm

    So amazing. These pics are glorious! I can’t wait to check out some of your recommendations!


  2. Maya
    July 20, 2012 4:34 pm

    Ahhh Scandinavia! I loved Denmark and Finland, but missed Norway which was sad for this Norweigan! The fish, the people….Iceland sounds COOL! Can’t wait for more pictures…hopefully some of YOU ? :) Aloha!

  3. jen
    July 20, 2012 6:04 pm

    I just discovered that most of my ancestors on my mom’s side came from Iceland (and the rest from Norway). It quickly moved up to the top of my list of next places to visit – so I can’t wait to see all your photos! Iceland looks amazing and I’ve had about 5 friends take trips there recently, so their marketing is definitely working!

  4. katelin
    July 20, 2012 7:23 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone that’s traveled to Iceland, that is just so cool! And glad you guys had such a great time on your mini trip there.

  5. kelly
    July 21, 2012 12:21 am

    I stopped in Iceland on the way to Norway in the spring and loved it too! I wish I had known about the bike tours – that sounds awesome. Friends that I saw there took me directly to the hot dog stand after I got off the plane – I agree, they weren’t all that good. I did the Blue Lagoon and it was nice, but I was actually sad that I didn’t get to hit up one of the local pools so I am actually kind of jealous that you did!

    I can’t wait to hear about Norway – I lived there for 6 months this past year and am hoping to go back soon.

  6. Lele
    July 21, 2012 8:29 pm

    Iceland! Awesomesauce!

  7. Alison
    July 22, 2012 12:29 am

    That will be some fun memories to share when you have your arms full of babies. Sounds like a great trip!

  8. Kris Coronado
    July 23, 2012 6:53 am

    Next time you go back, do a glacier walk. It was so amazing!

  9. K
    July 23, 2012 2:43 pm

    “Iceland loves Iceland!” made me bust out laughing at work.