My husband and I took a short 5 hour red-eye flight from New York and arrived to Reykjavík at 6am. We rented a car and got on the road to Golden circle, which is the 5-6 round trip to see beautiful parks, waterfalls, glaziers, hot springs for those who don’t plan to circle around the whole Iceland.
Places to see:
I know one way to explore Iceland is on the tour bus, that way you don’t need to worry about driving and with the tour guide you may see and learn more about key Icelandic attractions and history of the island. We, on the other hand, would like to travel solo, as we often go on the paths less traveled and visited by tourists, stop for pictures and just feel the essence of the country, rather than learn facts about it, that are just another mental concepts that would be forgotten in a short time.
So as we started our journey on the Golden Circle, Iceland welcomed us with the beautiful sunrise (in winter the days in Iceland are very short, 10am sunrise /
4pm sunset, in the beginning of March the sunrise was at 8:30am). So all our morning drives started at 7am and were absolutely stunning, the sunrise and the vast open landscape left us in awe. On the Golden Circle we stopped by Thingvellir park, Gullfos waterfall, Geysir, Skogafoss waterfall and a Blue Lagoon the following day. And all these places were beautiful in their own unique way.
Restaurants to visit:
In all restaurants we’ve been to the food was amazing, even their bread with butter is to die for. Iceland doesn’t produce much, therefore prices on products are high. When I travel I always try local delicatessens. In Iceland we tried smoked shark, shrimp bisque soup, cod with potatoes topped with cheese, whale stake and smoked puffin (a local bird) for my husband, as I don’t eat meat.
Our top choices:
1. Three Frakkar – awesome seafood, plus a place to try whale and puffin
2. Kol – a trendy place of European and Scandinavian fusion
3. Mika – family own super tasty restaurant on the Golden circle, great place to stop by for lunch.
4. Glo – great vegetarian place offers variety of poke bowls and vegan juices
Place to stay:
We stayed at Grand Hotel Reykjavik which was super great (this is not sponsored, I recommend from the heart). The hotel is not in the center, but only 5 min drive from the center and all major highways, which is super convenient since we were on the road every day, and parking is free. The hotel offered an outstanding breakfast, included in the night rate, which is a huge benefit, because as I said food is expensive in Iceland. Service and decor is outstanding, lobby had an awesome bar with a fire place and a great selection of travel books. Their spa had infra-red sauna and hot tubs – perfect place to wrap up a day, relax, reflect and take it all in.
Few travel tips:
1. If you want to see the Aurora Borealis (northern lights) which was one the main reasons we went there, you have to go in the winter (Nov-March). We got lucky seeing it on a clear night just 10 min off Reykjavik by the light house.
2. Come as early as you can to Blue lagoon to avoid tourists. Don’t wet your hair there, as you’ll need to wash it many times and condition it afterwards to remove all that salt.
3. Icelandic horses are very friendly, you can see them right off the road if you want to stop and pet them and take pictures. They are truly magical creatures.
4. There are no rest areas in Iceland, keep in mind you may drive for hours with no bathroom or food in sight.
5. It can be very windy and it happens sporadically, be careful when you open the car door, it can blow it off or at least damage it.
Hope you liked following my journey and all these tips are helpful, if you’ll decide to visit this beautiful country.