December 07, 2016

Tales from the Icelandic Coast

So I've been to Iceland.

Okay, so I've been to the Iceland airport. Twice! But unfortunately, even by my own rules, that doesn't count.

Luckily for this blog, however, my dear friend Sierra traveled to Iceland earlier this year on her honeymoon and has a few anecdotes and photos to share from her adventures in Iceland!


Honeymooning in Fire & Ice
I’m Sierra Brown. I am a Charlottesvillian, a wife, an adventurer, and I am a WAHOO. I have three major passions (in no particular order): travel, outdoor adventures, and food. So, when it was time to choose a honeymoon destination, my husband and I thought Iceland would surely feed these passions. We were right!

We did the Iceland stopover option with IcelandAir on our way back from England (also wonderful, but in different ways). We took 4 days, but really only had 2 full days to explore. Our trip was at the end of May, which was great because Reykjavik wasn’t too crowded yet and prices for hotels were still reasonable. Also, the sun went down just enough to give us that dusk effect and helped us sleep a little. The downside to going in May was that some tours are not available yet due to snow and ice blocking the way in higher elevations. Nonetheless, we booked some great tours to explore the beautiful landscape and had plenty of daylight to explore the cute town of Reykjavik.

Most folks who travel to Iceland for a short time do the Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle tour and catch some hot spring, waterfalls, and glacier highlights. We are not most folks. Our adventures started with a trip in a tricked-out, off-roading, monster van driven by a tiny, beautiful, blonde Icelander. She picked us up from our hotel and drove us and a small group out across moss-covered lava fields down into a lava tube. After a short walk into the cave, she asked us all to turn off our lights then shared some traditional scary stories and lullabies. They love spooky bumps in the night—I guess it comes from all the winter darkness. After that, we crawled through some very low ceilings. My husband stood up on the other side just long enough to catch his toe and topple head-over-heels into a 4-foot-deep hole, breaking his left hand in 2 spots. Although they had a walk-in clinic just up the street from our hotel, we weren’t about to waste a minute in a doctor’s office. So, on to a pub for an expensive recovery beer instead (we got him patched up at home a few days later).

Reynisdrangar beach
Our second day of touring was spent on the Southern Coast of Iceland. Once again, we were picked up, but this time in a GIANT off-roading bus. Our driver drove us down the scenic ring road several hours past the snowcapped Eyjafjallajökull (E15) volcano and water walls that fell from cliffs and disappeared into the wind before hitting the ground. We first stopped to explore the black sand beaches of Reynisdrangar with giant monoliths, sea caves, and basalt towers then on to the town of Vik for lunch. After a hot bowl of lamb stew, we met our guides and geared up for our trek on Sólheimajökull glacier. This was incredible. The ashy soil covered the glacier in spots, which validated the nickname of “Mordor” for the front of the glacier.

On the way back we stopped at two enormous waterfalls: Skógafoss waterfall and Seljalandsfoss waterfall (made famous in a Justin Bieber music video). Seljalandsfoss has a path that goes behind the falls, and you can take in the beautiful landscape through the pouring water. It’s pretty epic!

Selijalandsfoss Waterfall

Skógafoss Waterfall

Ok... Let’s talk about food!

We started our first afternoon with a trip to the 10-11, a small convenient grocery store, for peanut butter, jelly, bread, skyr (thick Icelandic yogurt), chips, and bottled water (the water at our hotel was very sulfurous). Although the store had many more traditional options like dried fish, we stuck with the basics to keep in our room.

After out shopping, we hit up the Public House/Café and tried their “Best of Iceland” tapas sampler.
  • Grafinn Lundi – Cured Puffin
  • Timianreykt Bleikja - Arctic Charr on a senbei cracker
  • Hreindyr - Reindeer w/ Icelandic Blue cheese
  • Haegeldadur Lambaskanki – Lamb shank in an Icelandic donut
  • Viking Beer sampling
All of which was A-MAZING!

We ate a few more meals in town. I would recommend them all: crepes at Eldur and Is, pizza (bacon, maple syrup, spinach, and apple!) at Eldsmiðjan, coffee at Te & kaffi, and sushi from Sushibarinn delivered to us during trivia!

Although Reykjavik is known for its wild club scene going all night, the restaurant scene closes up early. You had better get your dinner before 9:00 PM because everything closes after that—which seemed extra strange because it was still so light out. However, if you get an early start on dinner, you’ll be more likely to catch the abundant and necessary happy hour specials to cope with the insane alcohol prices. We popped into a few places for drinks: The Lebowski Bar (Big Lebowski themed) and Dillon Whiskey Bar (which sits on top the Chuck Norris Grill). We even managed to WIN a few free drinks in a game of trivia at Kofinn. All the questions were based on American movies—WINNING! They gave us each a Viking lager and a shot of Hot & Sweet, a traditional licorice liquor.

I’m afraid that even with all my ramblings, I haven’t fully captured the complete awesomeness, quirkiness, and wild nature of this country, the landscape, the people, or their capital. You’ll just have to experience it yourself. Get going!

All photos are by Sierra Brown and are used with permission for this article. Images can not be used without expression permission of the owner.


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