I’ve traveled to many countries in my life, I’ve seen many terrains, cultures and viewpoints. But I’ve never seen anything like Iceland. As soon as I landed and got in their super efficient bus service, I could smell the sulfur, view the volcanic ground and see the sky as the 3rd and last hour of sunlight for the day was dimming away.
I got to The Bus Hostel in an hour or so, and my friend (soon to be girlfriend) Gaia arrived later that day from London. I was starving and immediately went shopping for food. Astraurthur, the kindest receptionist I’ve ever met, gave me directions and I soon found food! Hurray! Being vegan in a new country can be a challenge but to me it’s like a fun puzzle that lets me try new foods if I win. I couldn’t read half the ingredients and I had no data on my phone so I asked people in the shop if the bread I was holding was vegan. To my surprise, everyone’s English was impeccable and my bread was indeed vegan! Great success. I bought a few more bits and bobs and got back to the hostel. I made some porridge with banana and peanut butter and sat in the hostel’s common room.
The vibe in the common room was the epitome of cozy. It was warm feeling, warm looking and adorned with the most eclectic array of beautiful vintage furniture that worked wonderfully with each other. The people were friendly and nice, and the music was EVERYTHING. I spent half of my time in the hostel next to the speakers shazaming away all the songs.
On the first full day, we went exploring the Reykjavik city center. It was a 10 minute walk from the Bus Hostel, just walk towards the big white church and you will find it. Reykjavik’s city center is tiny, walkable and absolutely beautiful. Every coffee shop looks more hipster than the other, the street lights are tasteful and subtle, the street art is absolutely gorgeous and there’s even an ocean at the bottom of it. Great photo opportunities, trust me.
We met up with an instagram friend living in Iceland and went to the lake right before the sun set. I cannot even explain how impressive and inspiring that sunset was. It was the strongest sun I’ve ever seen. It was so bright that you could even take pics with the sun in the back and the object would still be lit. It was magic. It literally felt like I was on a different planet. I felt so incredibly lucky for the opportunity to see such a wonder in real life.
After that we went to The Coocoo’s Nest at the marina for the best vegan hot chocolate of my life and some really good soy lattes. I ended up confessing my love for my friend Gaia there (with the other friend still there!), which made for a very awkward afternoon.
The next day we were recommended by Astraurthur (what would my Iceland trip be without Astraurthur?) to check out the geothermal pool Vesturbaejarlaug (don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it either). Even though every hot tap water drop in Iceland is geothermal (Fun fact, that’s why you should never drink or cook with the hot water from the tap) we decided to go viking and bathe in a geothermal pool with locals.
We were warned in advance to shower COMPLETELY NAKED (instead of while wearing swimsuits) before getting in the pool. The locals really hate it when foreigners show up in the pool with their private parts not properly washed as it wouldn’t be fun for anyone in that case.
So we made sure to clean every little bit, but, stupidly enough, we forgot our towels, not to mention we had one pair of flip flops and the ground was freezing. We couldn’t be bothered to rent a towel (it cost almost as much as the entrance fee!), so we just froze every second we spent outside the hot water. Oh and we had to dry off using blow dryers. Viking indeed.
After channeling our inner Ragnar, we ran as fast as we could to the 40 degrees water. At first I felt like I was burning alive, but after a few seconds the water felt sooooooo good.
It was an insane experience I will never forget and if I can give you one word of advice (besides showering naked!), DO NOT wet your hair AT ALL or do it only right before you get out of the pool. The wind will literally freeze your head off and make this experience a nightmare if you have long hair like mine.
One thing you probably know about Iceland besides it not having any forests or their high chlamydia rates (oh you didn’t know that? Well now you do. Practice safe sex kids!), is that it’s very expensive. If you’ve made up your mind to travel here, you should be fully aware of that fact.
If you want to see anything touristy, the northern lights, the national parks or the geysers, you should probably rent a car. Bus tours are great but they are very costly, so if you’re on a budget, finding people at the hostel to share a ride with or organizing with some people off of couchsurfing to rent a car with you, would be a good idea. The national parks are free and you can split gas, insurance and car rental costs to see more of Iceland for less money.
Me and my girlfriend hired a van from rent.is and did a roadtrip around The Golden Circle. We checked out the Thingvellir national park, which was stunning, the geysirs at Gullfoss and we spent the night in a camper van all the way out in Selfoss. Astraurthur told us to go to Vik to see the black sand beaches, but we were too exhausted from driving in the dark and the cold finally got to us, so we got back to Reykjavik for some fries. On the way home we almost got stuck in a snow storm (I was terrified) but we made it back safely. Sadly, we didn’t get to see the northern lights the whole entire trip, but it only means we will have to go back one day right?
On our last day we decided to be proper tourists and go to The Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is probably the most popular tourist attraction in Iceland and it is one of the 25 wonders of the world according to some important list. We got there in the middle of a thunderstorm and everyone was so concerned, they were actually considering closing it off for the day, but all ended up well and we went in. The showers were lush and we got a towel this time (#winning).
After we showered we were about to go outside to the pool while it was hailing. I don’t know how I embraced my inner viking, but I eventually did it and I don’t regret one second of that experience. The water outside were soooooooooooo nice and I felt amazing after bathing in them. We got into one of the caves and took some nice insta pics , then went back inside to the indoor pool. This pool was substantially colder than the one outside for a reason my brain can’t comprehend, but we survived it all. We got there when it was already dark, so sadly, we couldn’t see much of the clear blue water. I would HIGHLY recommend booking well in advance and scheduling your visit to daylight hours, as short as they may be.
The moment we’ve all been waiting for (or maybe just me?), food talk, will be in the next post. A foodie like me requires a whole post to articulate my food thoughts. In terms of travel, Iceland is a country you have to see at least once in your life. The nature is astonishing, the weather is an experience of it’s own, and if you get to see the northern lights, or at least a happy puffin or whale, you scored big time.