Last summer while re-evaluating a lot of different things in life I began to look at places I’d love to visit in the world and Iceland quickly flew up to the top of my list. At the time it seemed like an impossible dream but after a lot of research and a few “Why not?”‘s, come December we had our flights and accommodation booked. Fast forward three months and I’m sat here in our little cabin in the woods beginning to write this post while everything is fresh in my mind.
We flew into Iceland on Monday night and arrived at the exact right time to see the most beautiful sunset, and after sorting out our rental car we were on our way from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik to pick up the keys for our cabin.
This trip was my first time using Airbnb to find accommodation and it’s been such a pleasant experience. We met up with our host and she welcomed us into her house in the city to talk us through the property and to just generally chat about Iceland, the culture and some of the different foods they have here! Erna and her family were so lovely it felt like meeting up with old friends even though we’d only just met face to face.
The drive from Reykjavik to our cabin was very intense. Not only was it Caitlin’s first time driving on the other side of the road but by the time we’d left Erna’s and had some dinner as well it was quite late and pitch black, with some of the roads in fantastic condition and others a little bit less so. It was an absolute relief to finally reach the cabin in Gnúpverjavegur to say the least.
After getting to bed quite late we had a fairly early start the next morning and were soon hitting the road to discover what Iceland had to offer. First Sabine and I had to scope out where the nearest petrol station was because it also had a small (and when I say small, think really small!) supermarket area and we needed to get some food for the cabin, and that in itself ended up to be quite the adventure. To be honest, we hadn’t got much of a clue as to where this petrol station was but after about half an hour we eventually found it! A few days later we managed to find it in ten minutes…
Here we were again shown more kindness from Icelandic folk as the cashier in the shop happily told us all about the history of flatkökur (Icelandic flatbread, which was very yummy!) after we mentioned it had been recommended to us. The enthusiasm and willingness to share with us tales of the countries culture was really lovely, and while we didn’t meet a lot of people while in Iceland I can safely say they were all incredibly kind and generous with their time.
With food in the cupboards we really did set out on the road to one of the places on ‘the list of things to see’, but on the way we were severely distracted by the most adorable Icelandic horses. Before we got to Iceland this was all Caitlin would go on about – all she wanted to do was see an Icelandic horse so this was a big thing to tick off her list! These horses were so sweet natured, and enjoyed the attention we gave them a lot! We stayed with them for quite a while until the snow and wind became too unbearable, and got back into the car to journey on. After getting lost and almost having to offroad, we finally found the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall.
Understandably, Gullfoss tends to be the most tourist-attracting feature that Iceland has and even in the bitter weather there were plenty of people around to see the magnificent falls. The wind here was just insane, my eyes wouldn’t stop crying from it. Sadly because of the weather we couldn’t walk down as far as you’re allowed to normally. In the second photo above you can see that in good weather you can walk down really close to the falls but due to the snow, ice and wind combination it certainly wouldn’t be safe, still it was a beauty to marvel at. Our next stop was the geyser at Strokkur as it is the one that erupts most frequently, and was definitely something to see! Nature is pretty crazy right? My tripod bag may or may not have decided to take a little adventure very close to the geyser, it flew away from me as I was getting my tripod out! Thankfully it didn’t go flying as the geyser erupted and Sabine earned many extra best friend points by going under the rope to get the bag for me just after the geyser erupted and we knew we had a window of time. Note to self: keep hold of that bag!
It was amazing to see the geyser erupting a few times and to watch it refill as well, it was one of those moments where you just can’t believe what nature does constantly. What’s also amazing is the smell that this thing gave off! Who knew that geysers smelt of rotten eggs eh. In our second day I also managed to take a 52 Weeks photo that you can check out the blog post for here!
Straight off the bat we’d been warned not to drive very far on Wednesday as the weather was predicted to be quite awful, and when even the locals tell you it’s going to be bad and they’ve just had one of their worst winters, you listen to them! So we stayed inside our cabin for most of the day having a relaxing cosy film day.
In the afternoon we drove out to Selfoss which was the closest down to us for some dinner, and even just driving around Iceland becomes exciting with the landscape that surrounds you. I really hadn’t prepared myself for how beautiful everything would look, I definitely didn’t think of how mountainous Iceland was either. Being the passenger on journeys like these was a big plus.
That evening we had particularly clear skies but had checked the aurora forecast and despite the perfect weather conditions it had said the aurora wasn’t active. Caitlin and I were outside taking long exposure photographs of the night sky anyway, and this is when Caitlin says she’s spotted some green in the distance. Naturally I have a little moment of freaking out as my eyes couldn’t see it – lo and behold my camera could though. Something I’ve also just noticed while adding this photo to the post is a little shooting star heading towards the splash of aurora, which has just made this photo even more perfect. Even though I couldn’t see it with my eyes knowing that the aurora was there and that I’d photographed it made me overwhelmingly happy in that moment. If only I knew then how we’d be ending the week…
On our fourth day in Iceland we drove back over to Reykjavik to explore a bit of the city. As we came across some more Icelandic horses naturally we stopped to say hello and to take some photos! They were all so friendly.
Driving in Iceland is a very interesting experience. One minute you’re on a snow covered road trying not to slide around and the next it’s fairly clear and smooth, certainly very different to our driving experiences in the UK.
Thankfully we made it to Reykjavik safely although quite tired and hungry. We had a pit stop at Cafe Babalú, the first cafe we stumbled across. With different currencies papering the walls, landscapes made of crochet in frames and the most indulgent Nutella cheesecake I’ve ever tasted, this cafe was a brilliant discovery. We then had a general nosey around the city not seeking anything in particular, just seeing whatever we could discover. Heading in the general direction of the cathedral we faced the blustering wind and snow – wind so strong that it physically pushed us back on occasion. When we reached the cathedral sadly we couldn’t see inside it as a funeral was being held at the time but it was wonderful to see the beautiful architectural design of the outside.
We braved walking down to the seafront to see the Sun Voyager sculpture, also known as Sólfar, and here we really witnessed the vicious snow/wind combination at its fullest. Really it’s kind of funny looking back at it now because I remember at one point I was walking along and had to pull my hat completely over my eyes because the snow hitting my eyes was so painful!
From what we saw of Reykjavik it seemed like a city rich in art and culture, the street art I spotted as we walked round was of such a high quality. It was like artists had been let lose around the city to use the buildings as their blank canvas’, and with these freedom they’d created some truly incredible works of art – this isn’t all just casual graffiti.
We popped into a few of the shops in the city and while walking up the main street the window display of myconceptstore drew me in immediately. Honestly that’s all it takes for me to want to go into a shop! I loved this place, it was full of very quirky homeware items so it was right up my street. It was in this shop that I found my dream mirror (yes, I’m weird) and also bought some initial blocks as this style of homeware is something I’ve become quite obsessed with recently.
Thinking about it, I haven’t really spoken about my crazy homeware obsession on the blog yet have I? I’m sure it won’t be long before that becomes apparent. Next I stumbled into a shop called FAKÓ because I spotted the most beautiful edison lights in the window display (see, sensing a theme here?) and I just had to go inside.
I had quite a lengthy chat with the lady in the shop about how much I loved everything in there, and when I say everything I really mean it. I’m 100% crazy about edison lighting and this whole shop was pretty much all I’d want in a future home – I wanted to spend all my money in here! I limited myself to just buying a little present for my sister though as from outside the shop I’d spotted a card with our favourite thing to say to each other, and when inside I found a gorgeous glass frame to put it in.
By this point we were very much frozen to the bone and ready to head back to our little cabin so we said a goodbye to Reykjavik for the moment and began the drive home. What a crazy drive this turned out to be though. In between Reykjavik and where our cabin was situated we had to drive over and through a mountain for quite a considerable amount of time, so obviously we ended up driving at quite a higher altitude. One in which a blizzard doesn’t do well…
A beautiful misty sunset quickly turned into snow harrowing its way across the road and all the cars travelling along it slowing down to a crawling pace with our hazard lights on. It was such a surreal experience being able to only see the car in front of you and then a little bit of the car in front of that, and also pretty terrifying considering the drops on either sides of the road. Finally descending out of the mountain range was quite the relief, and from there on it was a smooth drive back to the cabin. I loved the ridiculously bright greenhouses we saw on the drive back, we could only assume they were greenhouses anyway. The juxtaposition of the landscape at times was almost laughable. Mountains, electrical towers, greenhouses and vast expanses of nothing all combined in one. Sometimes it was hard to believe they could all co-exist. On Friday we attempted to wake up early as we wanted to drive round to the glacier lagoon at Jökulsárlón which would take us well over four hours to get to. We made a little stop on the way at Seljandafoss which was an amazing little waterfall! And naturally we had to say hello to some more adorable Icelandic horses.
A long, long, long way down Route 1 we finally made it to Jökulsárlón and its beautiful lagoon, we climbed up the hills surrounding the lagoon and were then able to see the stunning mountain views. We climbed down from there to then drive further across to where the larger icebergs float, they sit so peacefully together in the lagoon.
Across the road the beach is scattered with huge chunks of ice and the sight is quite spectacular! As we walked along the beautiful stretch of black sand we came across ice the height of us, nature is crazy.
Not only was it amazing to see this beach covered with ice, I adored the black sand that made up the beach as this is one of the things I first loved about Iceland from seeing images years ago. While on the beach I had a run in (literally) with a block of ice when Caitlin ran towards me away from the fast approaching tide, making me panic and turn straight into the edge of a mini iceberg – it gave me a bruise for weeks!
We spent Saturday packing up our things and tidying the cabin in readiness to leave early the next morning. After a lot of travelling around practically half of Iceland the day previous we welcomed a slightly lazier day, however Caitlin was determined to climb the mountain next to us so it wasn’t totally a lazy day! I didn’t realise just how deep the snow had become, at times I was almost up to my knees in it. The view from halfway up in the sunshine was stunning.
Our final night in Iceland was absolute magic. All week we had waited for the clouds to clear each night and every night we’d fallen asleep mildly disappointed with whoever controls the weather. It seemed instead that all our luck had been bottled up for the aurora borealis to put on a full two hour show to say a special goodbye to us.
The pictures speak for themselves really but people don’t lie when they say the northern lights dance across the sky and truly wow you. I’m not ashamed to say I cried for about 20 minutes while watching them! This is one hour of my life spent freezing in -6 degrees that I’ll never forget, the excitement of spotting them out of the front door and running outside severely under-layered but too overwhelmed to care.
Sunday morning rolled round far too quickly and we were up at a silly early hour to head back to the airport. Landing back in the UK the weather here felt tropical in comparison to Iceland! It was sad to come back to the realities of life but our time in Iceland was so incredible and I can’t wait to go back again for hopefully a longer trip to explore even more of the most beautiful country I’ve ever been to.