Eight Dayes in Iceland

My husband and I traveled to Iceland in September of 2016 and had the most thrilling and awe-inspiring time while there. We visited for 8 days, jam-packed a lot into our itinerary, and explored as much of the country as we possibly could. I have never posted our itinerary, but in the last few weeks, we have gotten a lot of requests for it. So, I just decided to post it for anyone wanting to go to Iceland! It is still our favorite trip!

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September 21st (Travel Daye): We woke up to fly from Nashville to Baltimore around 10 AM, had lunch and chill time at the Baltimore airport for a few hours, and flew from Baltimore to Keflavik, Iceland around 7 PM. The flight there was only about 5.5 hours and we arrived the next morning at 5 AM Iceland time.

September 22nd (Daye 1): We arrived in Keflavik at 5 AM. After going through the “customs line” (we literally just walked out of the airport), getting our bag, and picking up our rental car with SADcars, we headed to the Blue Lagoon for our reservation at 8 AM. The blue lagoon is a geothermal spa and pool where you can relax in the warm and mineral-rich waters for the day. We only spent about 4 hours wading in the pool, napping on swing-back chairs, eating, and showering (and they had free WiFi!). We were staying the night on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in an Airbnb in the town of Hellissandur. We geared up for our two and a half to three hour drive ahead of us with multiple stops and sightseeing opportunities along the way. After dropping by the grocery store for much needed food and checking out the sunset, we checked into our Airbnb and passed out early. 10 hours of sleep later…

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September 23rd (Daye 2): We woke up early to drive along the coast of Snaefellsnes toward the Vatnshellir Cave. We visited many jagged cliffs and coastal rock formations along the way. You can literally stop every couple of minutes to see sights. Driving through Iceland was one of the best places to see scenery! Finally, we made it to the cave after way too many stops to admire the land and views. The Vatnshellir Cave is one of the lava tube caves that is formed from the magma pressure during volcanic eruptions. The formations and the cave itself were pretty spectacular to see. After the cave, we headed to the town of Arnarstapi, which was my favorite town in Iceland! In Arnarstapi, they have trails all along the coastline that make for a beautiful hike. You can even hike all the way to the next town on them. This is where we saw massive rock formations, cliffs, and basalt columns rising up out of the ocean. These were the most dramatic coastal views we saw in Iceland. After the coasts, we drove to the northern side of the Peninsula to drool over Kirkjufell (an awesome mountain), visit a local bakery in Stykkisholmur, and climb to the top of Helgafell. We ended the day with dinner of lamb and Char (some type of Icelandic fish) at Hraun in Olafsvik.

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September 24th (Daye 3): Since this was our last day on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, we made our way around the coastline to ensure we had seen everything (which is practically impossible in picturesque Iceland). On our way back to Reykjavik, we stopped to hike to the top of a volcanic crater (where we were almost blown off), then grab coffee in the windy town off Hellnar, hike around a lush and green canyon, and see sights like the old Budir church and the angry waves on the western-most tip of the mainland. We were not able to explore as much as we would have liked because it began raining. So always be prepared for drastic weather changes in Iceland! After seeing everything that was at the top of our list, we decided to push forward to make it to the city. When we arrived in Reykjavik, the sun came out, and we immediately headed out to walk around town. When the sun comes out in Iceland, you take advantage of it no matter where you are! We visited the Hallgrimskikja church and rode the elevator to the top to view the sunset over the city. After our walk, we went to dinner at the Perlan – a very fancy restaurant that spins in a slow circle while you eat to view all of Reykjavik. It takes a full two hours to spin completely around, and our meal surprisingly took that long! Oh European meals…

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September 25th (Daye 4): After a busy three days, we took the morning slow and enjoyed our time in this quaint, little city. We strolled around town to see the Sun Voyager sculpture, take in the street art everywhere, visit the Harpa Performing Arts Center, and of course to grab Icelandic coffee and pastries at the well-known bakery, Braud & Co. We then headed towards the south coast to see all the sights all along the way to Vik. On the way, we pet Icelandic ponies, devoured lamb hot dogs, and saw a million waterfalls. First waterfall stop was Seljandfoss and Gljufurafoss where we were able to hike behind and through waterfalls. Gljufurafoss was a little harder to get to because we had to hike through a little creek and canyon to get to it, but it was so worth every ounce of energy! After spending a fair amount of time here, we headed not far down the road to Skogafoss (my personal favorite of the waterfalls). Skogafoss is about 200 feet high and massive – especially when you are standing right next to it! We ended up taking the 430 steps to the top of the fall and hiking even further up the mountain to see some amazing views of more waterfalls, rushing creeks, and green grass surrounding us from a vantage point. Once we hiked all the way back down, we were starving and decided to eat dinner at the Skogafoss hotel located right in front of the falls. To my surprise, the food was AMAZING. I guess in Iceland, tourist traps aren’t really a thing. This was one of my favorite meals of grilled local arctic char, garlic potato puree, and olive oil. We then headed to our cute wooden cabins where we would be staying in for a couple of nights. Our cabins overlooked the ocean and Dyrholaey with the volcanos behind us.

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September 26th (Daye 5): This was our longest day, and we knew it would be. We woke up super early to get started. We were heading east to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon to make it in time for our scheduled boat ride. The scenery on this drive was to die for. It was scenery that made you feel so small compared to the world we live in with tall volcanoes cover in soil of various reds, greens, and yellows. We arrived at the lagoon, took our boat tour, and enjoyed the sights before starting to make our way back. We decided to hit the farthest point we were going first and then to visit everything else on the drive back to Vik. One of our favorite parts of our trip was stopping at Skaftafell National Park to hike the trail to Svartifoss (which ended up taking way longer than we thought it would). The scenery in this park was so different from the rest of Iceland. It looked as if we were hiking through the Alps. We were seeing snow capped mountains in front of us and green, yellow, and orange foliage around us. I said “WOW” so many times. Because we wanted to make it back to the black sand beach by sunset, we rushed back after our hike and didn’t make as many stops as we would have liked. We made it to Reynisfjara Beach about 30 minutes before sunset (perfect timing). We enjoyed the waves, basalt columns, rock formations, and the sun setting behind Dyrholaey. We headed to Vik for dinner where we saw a glimpse of the Northern Lights coming out. Little did we know that in just a few short hours, we would be watching them dance through the night sky above our cabins 🙂

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September 27th (Daye 6): We checked out of our adorable wooden cabins and headed down to Dyrholaey one more time to catch our last glimpses of the south coast. After that, we took our time heading back to Reykjavik by stopping at the grocery store for food, pulling over to walk to a glacier, hiking to the oldest Icelandic swimming pool, and of course, devouring more lamb hot dogs (SO GOOD)! When we arrived back in Reykjavik and found our Airbnb, we headed out to walk around town and look for dinner. We decided on a tapas place where we were able to try various Icelandic dishes. We had puffin, whale, lamb, and all sorts of fish. On our way back, the Northern Lights decided to come out and dance through the sky yet again. So, of course, we chased them for a few hours. It was a soothing end to a long day of driving.

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September 28th (Daye 7): This was our final full day of touring. We had decided to save the famous Golden Circle for our last day in Iceland. The Golden Circle is a geographical circular road with sights to see along the route. We ended up taking too much time at the three main stops and were not able to encompass the full circle, but we still saw a lot! We saw Icelandic horses grazing, Pingvellir National Park where the European and North American tectonic plates drift apart, the original geysir (Stokkur), and Gulfoss with its strong force of water pushing down the river. Once back in Reykjavik, we had dinner at Prir Frakkar, which had great ratings. It was amazing. It was a place where all the locals ate. We ordered whale, reindeer pate, smoked char, lamb, and hashfish. On our final night in Iceland, the Northern Lights (for the 3rd night in a row!) decided to come out and give us a proper Icelandic “bless” (Icelandic translation – bye).

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September 29th (Daye 8 – Travel Home): Our final (half) day in Iceland entailed eating breakfast, saying goodbye to the city of Reykjavik, returning our car, and heading to the airport. This is always the saddest and most reflective part of any of our trips. “If only we could stay a little longer” is always my thought. I absolutely loved Iceland. I have never had an experience like it. It is so hard to explain if you’ve never been there. So, I will just leave you with photos to inspire your own wanderlust that will hopefully encourage you to book an Icelandic trip of your own!

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How To Enjoy Your Vacation with Lost Luggage

Hey y’all, I am a first-hand experienced traveler when it comes to lost luggage. It happens! That is the first thing you have to remember when it happens to you for the first time (because if you travel a lot or even occasionally, then it WILL eventually happen to you). The worst experience I had with this was when I was headed to my honeymoon with my wonderful husband.

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We flew out of Nashville on Monday morning, had a layover in Houston, and landed at the Liberia, Costa Rica Airport where we came to the dawning realization that our luggage had been left behind at the Houston airport. With everyone expressing the “Pura Vida” mentality of not sweating the small stuff, we had a difficult time dealing with the broken English of the airport workers. After many tears and mixed Spanish and English discussions (Spanglish, if you will), we realized that our luggage would not arrive to this tiny airport until 3 days later. Cue mental breakdown on my part. There was nothing we could do at that point. So we got on the bus to our resort, got lost in thought for the 1.5 hour bumpy drive over rocks and mud, and arrived to our resort in the middle of nowhere, Costa Rica.

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We tried to explain the situation to the resort staff, but if you have never experienced that no-stress mentality, then it is hard to comprehend how chill to the extreme these people were. They said they would call the airport and ushered us off to our room. When we got into the room, everything hit us. We have no luggage. We are on our honeymoon at a beautiful resort on the beach and have limited clothes. What would we wear to dinner? There was literally forest around us; there were no stores. We had no toothbrushes (sorry honey, don’t think we can kiss). The thoughts kept pouring in. This was the turning point though – time to take action and make this work since we were sitting in a beautiful room with a bed strewn with flower petals.

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We went through our carry on luggage and gathered together the small amount of clothing we had. Oh boy. Since there was a dress code at all the restaurants at our all-inclusive resort, we had to get creative. The first few nights, we had to make do with what we had. I was wearing jeans, a black tank top I had worn under my clothes on the plane, and a necklace I had luckily thrown in my carry on at the last minute.

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Alec was wearing jeans and a t-shirt that he wore on the plane. We found out around this time that they would be attempting to fly our bag to another airport in CR and send it by taxi to the resort 8 hours away. We knew these clothes would be getting unsanitary soon though so we washed our clothes in the 3 inch shallow sink. At this point we had lost all hope of our luggage actually ever arriving.

Tuesday started out lovely when the staff wouldn’t let Alec come into the breakfast area wearing a tank top (mind you, this was one of his 2 tank options). Luckily, they had an overly used polo shirt that paired wonderfully with his blue basketball shorts! Who knows how many people had already worn this spare shirt that they had hanging at the hostess stand. He was really happy about it as you can tell below.

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After that, we broke down and bought cheap, overpriced clothing items at the convenience store of the resort. We also bought sunscreen after already having sunburns from walking down to the beach after literally 1 hour. We had to at least purchase these essentials other than the few goodies like toothbrushes, toothpaste, bath soap, etc. that the hotel had given us. They even sent us flowers and gift certificate for me to get services at their spa to let us know they felt bad for our situation!

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Such a nice goodie basket and beautiful flowers below from the most helpful and favorite hotel staff member, Fabian (yes, that was his name)!

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We decided to make the most of the beach bum life and live with what we had. Then, the resort staff, who we were pretty sure had forgotten about us other than the goodies and flowers (thank you FABIAN), brought sets of men and women’s waiter and waitress clothes for us to wear to dinner. Alec now had nice khakis and a flamingo waiter shirt (all he needed was a towel over his arm!) and they offered me a very large pencil skirt and wide-sized, white polo. I think he got the better end of the deal. Instead of wearing a huge polo, I used one of my nightgowns and tucked it into the pencil skirt. We were working our make-shift dinner attire and were actually having fun trying to figure out where our next outfit would come from! I can’t even count how many times we said, “this will be really funny later for sure,” and we were right!

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Notice I’m still sporting the original tank from the night before under the nightgown #resourceful

We learned a lot from losing our luggage and actually enjoyed solving the problems that arose as we went through the honeymoon. Since we started out our marriage working through a trial, then it must be a great sign for the future!

After being put on a plane to the San Jose, Costa Rica Airport and then placed in a taxi for 8 hours, our luggage arrived in one piece at our hotel room on Wednesday morning. We were surprised and shocked so see it. We could not have been more thrilled to see this soiled, large, blue duffel bag. From that point forward, it was all smooth sailing into honeymoon bliss.

As we gear up for our trip next week, we intend to be much more prepared with options packed in our carry-on luggage. It is always a good idea to make sure you have the following in your carry-on with you – especially if you are going international:

  • A change of clothes
  • An extra pair of walking shoes
  • Everything you would keep in your purse
  • Phone and charger
  • Camera and charger
  • Magazine/Book
  • Universal adapter plug
  • Essential toiletries
  • Snacks and water (At least an empty water bottle to fill up after security)
  • An extra jacket (depending on location)
  • Anything you would absolutely die if you lost!

For our Icelandic adventure, I think we will be making sure we have enough in our carry ons to get us by if need be. 🙂