I have to admit I wanted to go to Iceland for one reason and one reason only. To see the Northern Lights! Before I left I was telling everyone I saw that I could “die a happy woman” if I saw the Northern Lights on my trip. And while I didn’t really see them, Iceland was still an amazing place I can’t wait to get back to!
I did a four day trip to Reykjavík with four of my girlfriends and our moms. With A LOT of planning from my psycho Long Island friend Gina, we were able to make traveling as a group of 10 pretty effortless.
Let’s start with the boring stuff…
When I Went: October 24-27
We took a Friday overnight flight on Iceland Air and arrived in Reykjavík at 6 a.m. Saturday morning. The airport is about an hour outside of the city so take that into consideration when making plans for your first day!
We arrived just in time for the first snow of the season. During the day the temperature was about 30 degrees Fahrenheit but got much colder at night. During the day I wore a Uniqlo heat thermal long sleeve under a thick sweater with a Uniqlo down coat as well as a hat and gloves. The Uniqlo coat isn’t THAT warm (it’s the one that folds into a bag) but with layers I was OK. At night I put fleece lined leggings under my jeans and added a layer on top. Always had on a hat and gloves! For warmth and for style. 😉 I wore the Sperry duck boots every day which kept my feet fairly dry but not very warm, even with two pairs of socks.
Where I Stayed: Room With a View.
This apartment style hotel in the heart of downtown Reykjavík was the perfect accommodation for my group of five. It had three bedrooms, two with queen sized beds and one with four twins. A huge, full kitchen, fridge with a water dispenser on the front (love these!) and it was right on the street where all the action is! If you’re going to Iceland, DEFINITELY stay here!
You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the fence with the single gloves!
Where I Ate: Grillmarkadurinn
This is apparently the best restaurant in Iceland. Although it was VERY expensive! Dinner for my mom and I which included salmon for me and lamb for her plus three glasses of wine between the two of us was $120. But the food was phenomenal so I felt it was worth it.
Places We Didn’t Get to But I Wish We Did: Glacier Lagoon and the South Shore
Due to a crazy new job schedule, I didn’t have much time to plan for Iceland before we left. Before I go to a place, I usually look up things to do on Instagram and Pinterest. These were two places I found once I arrived in Iceland that I really wish I had had time to make it to! Both are a little far from the city of Reykjavik so we didn’t have time to visit them last minute.
Now let’s talk about the fun stuff…what we did!
Day 1: The Blue Lagoon
After arriving at our hotel around 8 a.m. Saturday, my group took a four hour nap. We were exhausted from our overnight flight! We then took a taxi to the Blue Lagoon which is about 45 minutes outside of Reykjavík. We took it one way and it worked out to $20/person. It’s true what they say about the Blue Lagoon – you must book in advance! We booked about three weeks in advance and when we did some time slots were already filled.
You have to pay to enter the Blue Lagoon. The cheapest is 35 Euros which only gets you entrance. My mom and I opted for the Premium package which gets you entrance, use of a towel/robe/flip flops, skin care trial, a drink at the lagoon and a drink at the restaurant afterward. I loved having the robe because it was very cold to walk out to the lagoon in just my bathing suit!
Once you enter the Lagoon, you can spend as much time as you want there. We arrived at 3 p.m. We spent about two hours just floating in the Lagoon, doing skin masks and enjoying our free drink. If this is not THE LIFE, then I don’t know what is!
Pro Tip: We took these photos using a LifeProof case on an iPhone. I prefer this to the GoPro cause I like to see what I’m taking pictures of! Definitely recommend getting one if you want cool water shots!
One note though, the water makes your hair feel like straw! Something about the sulfur in the water…honestly, I’m not sure. But you have to put conditioner in it before you go in. We left it in and our hair still felt disgusting. Took a lot of washings and A LOT of conditioner to get it back to normal.
I had also booked a one hour in water massage at the Lagoon. Now, I hate being touched. Like it really makes me cringe when people touch me so massages aren’t exactly my thing. But when in Iceland right!? The massage was amazing! First, I was scrubbed down with Blue Lagoon silica mud for about 30 minutes and then my masseuse gave me an upper body massage as I floated in the water. Even with my fear of being touched, I was in complete heaven. It was incredibly relaxing!
After the Blue Lagoon, my group of 10 was supposed to have dinner at Lava, the restaurant at the lagoon. We had booked our reservation more than a month in advance to ensure our group of 10 would be able to fit. When we arrived at the restaurant they told us they had a table for us but that they were only serving wild game.
“What’s wild game?” my friend Gina asked.
“Tonight we have reindeer, duck…” the manager said.
“No, I don’t eat reindeer!” shouted Gina’s mom, who is an amazingly hilarious woman from Long Island.
She demanded they get us a reservation at another restaurant since we were not informed they would only be serving wild game. The manager made us a reservation for 10 at a restaurant in the nearest town and had two of their employees drive us over there. Us five girls claimed the cuter driver and told the moms they had to go with the other one. Turns out our cute driver was only 17! So much for that.
I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant we went to because it was SO good. It looked like a little log cabin. Everywhere we went in Iceland felt like it should be in a ski village in Colorado. I loved it!
We had planned a Northern Lights tour through Superjeep for our first night in Iceland but they canceled our trip because the Lights were not going to be visible. Luckily for us, they take you a second night FOR FREE if you don’t see them the first night.
Day 2: The Golden Circle and Fontana Springs Tour
For day two of our trip, we had planned a Golden Circle and Fontana Springs tour through Reykjavik Excursions. This cost $104 per person. This tour took us to Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir geothermal area and Thingvellir National Park, as well as the Fontana Springs.
Bus tours are always…meh. But this one wasn’t so bad! We made a lot of stops and our bus wasn’t completely full so that was nice. Although this tour takes you to the most popular sites near Reykjavik so everywhere we went there were hundreds of people! But the sites really are breathtaking so it wasn’t so bad.
First Stop: Geysir Geothermal Area
Second Stop: Gullfoss Waterfall
Third Stop: Fontana Springs
When we arrived at Fontana Springs, only a small group of our bus got off while the rest went on to Reykjavik. Before we entered the springs, a tour guide showed us how the ground was so hot they could cook rye bread in it. How freaking random is that!? We watched him dig up a pot from the ground and bury another before heading inside to taste it.
“Is it fresh!?” Gina’s mother Tina asked as he offered us a piece.
Well T, we just watched him take it out of the ground so I think it’s safe to say it’s fresh! Her one liners made for lots of laughs on this trip.
To be honest, I could have done without the extra stop at Fontana Springs. After going to the Blue Lagoon the day before, the Fontana Springs sort of just felt like a hot tub on a lake. One of the springs was covered in algae on the bottom and just felt sort of dirty. All of the others were just hot tubs. There were also really hot saunas which were nice to sit in. Hate to be Debby Downer but yeah, I could’ve skipped it. But our group had A LOT of fun running back and forth from the freezing cold lake to the springs like a little kid. Do it for the Insta! Even if a group of moms is yelling at you that you’re going to get hypothermia.
On our drive back to Reykjavik, we drove past the Eurasian and North American Plates before arriving back at our hotel around 7 p.m. It was a VERY long day. But it made it go by pretty fast since we made so many stops.
We had a quick dinner at Cafe Paris near our hotel before getting into two Jeeps for our Northern Lights tour. But we had to stop for bottles of wine at the bar in the Kvosin hotel first. Can’t go on a four hour night tour without some wine!
On our tour through Superjeep, we started by going off roading up a mountain to a lookout over Reykjavik.
“How full are your glasses of wine?” our driver, who was either named Logan or Lawyer, asked.
“Oh not that full. We won’t spill, don’t worry,” we replied.
Next thing you know we are going full speed up a mountain, basically tipping backward screaming about how we’re going to die. My apologies to my friend Amy! I soaked her with my glass of wine that was more than half full!
But the view from the top was – you guessed it – amazing!
The rest of the night we drove around in our Jeep blasting music (I mean the new Adele song had just come out). We occasionally got out to try to see the Lights but with a full moon, we weren’t seeing them. It was still so cool to be in the middle of nowhere with only the spotlight from the moon so we decided to have a little fun of our own.
Our drivers also pulled out hot chocolate and vodka!
“You girls are going to miss the Northern Lights because you’re taking so many photos,” our driver said. Oops!
Unfortunately we did not see the Northern Lights. But the awesome people at Superjeep agreed to let us go a second night for free, even though it was technically our third!
At 2 a.m. we were finally back at our hotel in our beds, exhausted but happy after a really fun night.
Day 3: Lava Cave Tubing and Northern Lights Tour
For day 3, half of our group did an ATV tour and whale watching trip while the other half of us were planning to walk around the city and get to know Reykjavik. However, it is a very small city and with a full day and a half left, we decided maybe we would leave our walking to our last day. So we jumped on a last minute Reykjavik Excursions trip to the lava caves.
We booked our tour about an hour and a half before it was to depart. Love that you can book trips that little in advance!
Our driver Oti picked us up at our hotel and drove us into the Blue Mountains near the lava fields. When we arrived we were literally in the middle of nowhere. There was not another car in sight. It was beyond eery and beautiful.
According to the Reykjavik Excursions website, Lava tube caving is the exploration of a tube-like caves hidden right under our feet in the vast fields of ancient lava that covers much of Iceland. While you could stand up in most parts of the cave, our guides gave us helmets with lights on them for the parts with a low ceiling. And we were very happy we had them as we bumped our heads A LOT!
A note about Iceland – EVERYONE is beautiful. No, seriously. They are the most beautiful human beings I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes. Every woman looks like a model. Perfect skin, long blonde hair, piercing eyes. I had to tell our guide Victoria how beautiful she was!
OK back to the caves.
We walked awhile in the caves until we got to the end. Then we sat down and turned off our lights and sat in complete darkness while Victoria told us stories about Icelandic trolls and elves. She told us a majority of Icelandic people still believe in elves!
There was a hilarious little kid on our tour with his family. While Victoria was telling us stories, she referred to a lot of pop culture.
While we were sitting in the dark listening to her, the little kid shouted, “Oh my god so many references!!” I started laughing uncontrollably.
The ceiling was also dripping…nothing we could really do about that. And this little kid was NOT happy that he was getting wet!
On our walk back out of the cave, a small group of us decided to do the more advanced part where you had to basically do a walking plank to get through.
A look inside the caves…
I really enjoyed this tour because it was only about four hours and was very active! I also enjoyed that we had a very small tour group of only 10 people plus two guides. The hot chocolate at the end was a great addition, too!
After our tour was the night we ate at Grillmarkadurinn, mentioned at the top. Again, can’t stress enough how great the food was but it was pricey!
After dinner it was time for night three of our attempt to seeing the Northern Lights. We were really curious if we would have the same guides for night two. We were so obnoxious night one, blasting our music and talking our guides’ ears off that we figured they probably wouldn’t be back. And we were right! Instead they sent a driver with a van large enough to fit all 10 of us in one.
But we were happy to have our new driver! He was great. He was determined to have us see the Northern Lights. With a full moon out, our chances were very slim.
“It’s on!” he exclaimed loudly about an hour into our trip.
He jumped out of the van with his tripod and camera and began snapping the sky. We couldn’t see anything but when we looked into his camera we could see one faint green line. He told us that was the best we were going to get. So we all jumped in front of the camera to snap some pictures as proof that we saw the Northern Lights even if we couldn’t see them with the naked eye.
Day 4: Walking Around Reykjavik
For our last day in Reykjavik, we planned to walk around the city and do a little shopping. We walked over to the port and walked along the main drag of shops. We also stopped to have some amazing soup in a bread bowl. Not going to be able to enjoy Panera as much after eating that!
My mom and I flew out of Reykjavik on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. While I loved every second of our time in Iceland, I really wish we had more! I would’ve liked to make it into the southern part of the country as well as the north to the glacier lagoon. You definitely need a lot of time in Iceland! It is not a weekend trip. And while I believe that the restaurants do book quickly, I’m not sure the tours book up as far in advance as people say. Especially Golden Circle because there are so many buses doing this tour that you’re bound to get on one.
I can’t wait to get back to Iceland someday. I WILL see those dang Northern Lights with the naked eye if it kills me!