Iceland is not a destination. It is an adventure.

Traveling to Iceland has been something I have been waiting to experience ever since 2005 when I read an article in National Geographic Magazine about the stunning Icelandic nature, the beauty of the rugged landscape and the creativity of the Icelandic people. This year, the wait is over.

I want this post to be as informational about my travel itinerary, expenses and experiences as possible. Hopefully you can gain from it and go on your own adventure!

Above you can see (most) everything I’m bringing. I definitely could have traveled lighter, but I like to at least try and have a new change of clothes every day for the sake of my travel companions. I actually plan to go clubbing in Reykjavik and hear the people like to look nice (go figure) so needed a nicer pair of shoes and shirt.

I didn’t have room to fit my Rush 12 day pack with all of the camera equipment including the tripod so I’ll have to share one with my adventure buddies.

Update: I placed most of my camera equipment in the trunk of our rental car and just took what I needed depending on what I was shooting. The most we hiked was probably only a mile away from the car so I just carried what I needed.

I am traveling May 21st – 28th, 2015 non-stop from SEA (Seattle) to KEF (Keflavik), the international airport for Reykjavik for a total of 6h and 15min. I bought my ticket on Kayak.com for $996 about 11 weeks before take off. I may have found a cheaper ticket buying 6-8 weeks before the trip according to this infographic, but IcelandAir has a price guarantee.

My travel buddies are Lucy and Kylee, both Pacific Northwest gals, avid outdoors people and photographers as well as another Jordan. We came up with nicknames for each other so we wouldn’t get confused catching the attention of the wrong Jordan. I ended up being the “other” Jordan. How original. *sigh*

Our itinerary is shown in the graphic above. Our first two nights we will be staying in Hlemmur Square, a hostel in the heart of Reykjavik. Our next two nights will be spent at an airbnb in the Great Golden Circle, an area of Southern Iceland. And last but definitely not least, we will be enjoying our last two nights in an old fishing village, Sælukot which means pleasant, in the Northwestern part of Iceland.

 

Day 1 & 2: Reykjavik

Capital Region

Icelandair flight 680 to Reykjavik, Iceland. Seen here flying over a Greenland glacier.

Our plane had a nice aurora borealis touch.

Be sure to purchase your spirits duty free before leaving the airport. This is the best vodka I’ve ever had. It’s made with glacier water and filtered multiple times through lava rock.

An Icelandic Lullaby 

A slightly creepy but nice lullaby printed on the pillows of our IcelandicAir flight.

” Bí, bí og blaka, 

álftimar kvaka,

ég læt sem ég sofi,

en samt mun ég vaka.

Bíum bíum bamba,

börnin, litlu ramba,

fram um fjallakamba,

ad leita sér lamba. “

” Bye bye and hushabye, 

Can you see the swans fly?

Now half asleep in bed I lie, 

Awake with half an eye, 

Heyho and welladay, 

Over hills and far away, 

That’s where the little children stray, 

To find the lambs at play. ” 

The Great Hostel Group

From left to right: Kylee (Washington), Allison (New York), Liam (Canada), Jordan (Washington), Swati (India/Sweden), Brandon (San Diego), Paul (Toronto), Chris (Beijing), Emma (Switzerland), Lucy (Washington).

There’s nothing like trying to teach King’s Cup to a group of people from all over the world. We passed my lava filtered vodka around and got to know each other on a much more… intrinsic level. Then we ventured out to the bars and met more people, from the very same hostel and even on the same floor as us. I would say small world, but in this case, small Reykjavik.

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon was absolutely awesome. There’s nothing like dipping into a vibrant blue geothermal spa and caking silica mud on your face for a proper skin care treatment! I opted in for a higher package which came out to be about $56 USD. It include a “free” drink at the swim up bar, and a facial kit with an aloe mask you apply after the silica mud.  And no, I know what you’re thinking – they can’t make any drink you want. I was trying to get my hands on a bloody mary but the bar tender will only offer beer or sparkling wine. It’s still a great feeling having an ice cold beer in a geothermal hot spring. Reminds me of shower-beers back home.

I also ended up snagging an official Blue Lagoon towel. I was speaking with a spa employee and she definitely saw me holding it so I guessed I could just take it with me. For the price I paid I would assume I should be offered such a souvenir anyway.

Spoiler: The Blue Lagoon isn’t a true geothermal hot spring. Although it is natural, and drains itself of the seawater every 36 hours, the heat comes from the adjacent aluminum processing plant, which receives it’s power from geothermal energy and dumps it into the Blue Lagoon. 

A Great Icelandic Feast

A 7 course meal prepared by Tapas located in Reykjavik. I also tried kangaroo!

Minke Whale with cranberry-sauce
Icelandic sea-trout with peppers-salsa
Grilled Icelandic lamb Samfaina
Lobster tails baked in garlic
Smoked puffin with blueberry “brennivín” sauce
White chocolate “Skyr” mousse with passion coulis
Pan-fried blue ling with lobster sauce
 

Day 3 & 4: Golden Circle

Southern Iceland

Packing up the car and leaving the city was bitter-sweet. One one hand we made friends with an awesome group of travelers who were staying in or around the city for the remainder of their stay and couldn’t join us on the road trip. On the other hand I was so excited to actually get out there and explore Iceland by car and cover a lot more miles and sites.

Tip: Don’t try to go grocery shopping on a Sunday. We also ran into a holiday that weekend so trying to buy groceries before heading to our Great Golden Circle Cottage Airbnb proved difficult. We settled for buying snack items until the next day at a mom&pop store down the road from our cottage. 

horse

A beautiful Icelandic horse

 

Our days in the Golden Circle were easily our longest days of traveling. From our airbnb we traveled North to Gullfoss and Geysir, then looped all they way back around to highway 1 again to go to the downed US Navy plane on the Southern coast.

For this part of the journey an off-roading vehicle would have been WAY BETTER but not at all necessary. Lucy, who so graciously got the rental for us, was holding her breath the entire way out to the plane and let out a little whimper every time a large rock struck the car axles.

Be sure to check out my Iceland parallax scrolling microsite I created to showcase some of my favorite photos from the trip. Looks best on a larger screen!

 

Day 5 & 6: Sælkut

island ferry & volcanoes

Our last couple days were spent in a nice coastal fishing village of Sælukot, meaning “pleasant”. This was a great house to have as it gave us a good starting point to explore the coastal regions in the Northwest.

Tip: If you stay in Sælukot and book through Airbnb like we did, ask if your host will throw in a couple ferry tickets ($55 USD each) to Flatey Island to see one of Iceland’s oldest villages. 

Bouldering around seaward cliffs at the base of Snæfellsjökull, A 700,000 year old stratovolcano in western Iceland. Some may know it from Journey to the Center of the Earth where the team entered the earth through an opening in this volcano.

Flatey is the largest island of the western islands, a cluster of about forty large and small islands and islets located in Breiðafjörður on the northwestern part of Iceland.

The Icelandic sheep (Icelandicíslenska sauðkindin)

Waterfall at the base of a mountain range in Northwestern Iceland.

Milestone Metrics

2000
km of driving
67
cups of coffee
3500
photos captured
1
unforgettable trip

If you enjoyed this blog post be sure to share with your friends and family! Have you ever been to Iceland? Please share your experiences and suggestions in the comments below!

About Jordan Stambaugh