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Visit Iceland

WHY THE LAND OF FIRE AND ICE SHOULD BE ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET LIST

Article by Mindy Hargesheimer

Photography by Mindy Hargesheimer

“Iceland: worthy of bucket lists – wouldn’t you agree?” 

An Icelandic greeting and friendly reminder at Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport. Whether you see it upon your arrival or your departure, it’s further affirmation of your pursuit to add the country of Iceland to your travel bucket list, and to see why it has gained so much global attention for its beautiful topography and incredible cuisines! Did I mention the Nordic people are all seemingly gorgeous? All in all, this is one PRETTY country!  

I’ve rounded up our 5 days/4 nights trip in June 2022 and found it to be a solid amount of time to experience 3 separate west coast regions in Iceland’s summer season: 1) The city of Reykjavik 2) South Iceland 3) West Iceland. And, if you’re anything like us, you’ll find your traveling-self seeing resemblances to Colorado mountains, small Swiss towns, Sonoma wine country, as well as South African cliffscapes, Calgary country sides, Maui mountains, and even, perhaps, the moon.

Summer and winter in Iceland are evidently very different in terms of what you will see in colors, temperatures, and activities (I cannot speak to the winters here); so, depending on what you hope to do, the month you book will determine your all-encompassing Icelandic experience. 

While we absolutely wanted to see the Northern Lights, our preference was to experience the warmer temperatures and the bright natural colors Iceland has to offer, so we sacrificed the chance to see the neon-lit night skies during the prime months of Oct-March in exchange for lush green and purple foliage and pink and orange evening sunsets amongst the ~4 total hours of sundown. 

The Net Out:

Who: 2 travelers

Travel Booking Group: Jetline Vacations via Travelzoo

Duration: 5 days + 4 nights + travel time

When: June 1-6, 2022

Air: Book your preferred airline partner to connect onto Icelandair via that airline’s connecting city (in our case, MCI United Airlines --> ORD Icelandair --> KEF

Rental Car: Book your preferred rental car partner - in our case, National Car Rental (note that gas in Iceland is $9-10 per gallon, opt into insurance that covers wear and tear from the landscape, and gas stations only accept debit cards).

Hotels: Center Hotels in Reykjavik (2 nights), Bru Guesthouse in Hvolsvöllur (1 night), B59 Hotel in Borgarnes (1 night)

Temperatures: ~40-55 Fahrenheit   

Sunlight Hours per Day: ~20

Tips:

Time Driving in the Car: Prepare for lots of hours of driving to and from destinations! Download playlists and podcasts and your own inner dialogue as you pass the time and take in the scenery. 

Gas Stations: Gas stations are few and far between as you exit the city; fill up the next time you see a gas station in the case that you won’t see one for hours.

Food & Beverage Prices: Yes, it is true; expect to pay more for a beer or cocktail, but also take advantage of the many happy hours happening everywhere.

Getting Around w/ Scooters: Without a car? The towns offer Hopp and Zolo eScooters; download the free apps and take advantage of these to see a lot in a little.

Sleeping Mask: Our hotels had blackout shades, but if you are sensitive to light, bring your night mask and get acclimated to the long sunny days!

Downtown Reykjavik: Stay in the heart of the city and you have every restaurant, bar, and shop within steps.

-


Day 1: Reykjavik, Iceland

Hallgrimskirkja: Lutheran Church on the Hill with tower viewing - Church is free to enter (excluding during ceremonies) and ~$9 to view from the top of the church-tower.

Braud & Co: Artisan, organic bakery making fresh-baked sourdough bread and pastries with Iocally made butter and sourced sea salt.

Epal: Home goods & arts store offering products with Icelandic and Nordic-inspired design inspiration - great for higher-quality and appealing gifts.

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur: Signature hot dogs at a renowned local food stand - Hot dogs are made up of pork, beef and lamb along with sweet brown mustard and cronions (crispy fried onions).

Fish Company: Gorgeous and cozy seafood restaurant & bar offering Icelandic fare like Arctic char, lamb, lobster and the fish of the day, served on china.

Rammagerdin: Icelandic wool and apparel gift shop, including classic sweaters and winter accessories as well as home decor and children's gifts.

Lebowski Bar: Retro designed Lebowski Bar is divided into four separate themes—bowling alley, a southern-style porch, a ‘50s diner, and a kind of ‘60s playboy lounge bar on the upper floor. Menu offers over 24 varieties of White Russians and diner-style dishes and milkshakes.

Ingolfsskali Viking Restaurant: Contemporary Viking culinary experience, offering horns to drink from, food hunted and gathered by the Ingólfsskáli family, and recreational axe throwing and archery. Choose from small plates and mains, feasting on salted cod, cured horse, Arctic char, smoked salmon, Iceland cheese plates and spirits.

Center Hotels: 8-hotel property group with conveniently located and simplistic hotel rooms.

Zolo eScooters: Fast, fun and inexpensive electric scooters for transportation.


Braud & Co: Artisan Bakery


Epal: Home Goods Store


Baejarins Beztu Pylsur: Hot Dog Stand


Fish Company: Seafood Restaurant & Bar


Zolo eScooters: Electric Scooters


Rammagerdin: Clothing & Home Goods Shop


Lebowski Bar: Bar & Restaurant


Ingolfsskali Viking Restaurant: Restaurant, Axe Throwing & Archery


Day 2: South Iceland

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach: Black sand beach in the Southeast near the town of Vik. Towering basalt rocks and sea stacks make this non-tropical beach a unique landscape with powerful waves termed "sneaker waves." Visitors are warned to steer clear of getting too close to the water all while enjoying the gorgeous black sand and terrain.

Reykjavik Roasters: Coffee roaster with three local coffeehouses.

Pylsuvagninn: Drive-thru hot dog, hamburger and fast casual restaurant in the town of Reykjanesbaer. Hot dog options include deep fried with crumbled Doritos and garlic sauce.

Vik: Fishing Village on the south coast; visit the picturesque Vík í Mýrdal Church and panorama views.

Sodur-Vik Restaurant and Cafe: Cozy restaurant perched on a hillside just below the church with beautiful views of the sea and town. Grab a local Icelandic beer and pair with a pizza, sea stew, and more.

Seljalandssfoss: One of Iceland's most famous waterfalls, this 200 foot drop waterfall can be seen from a 360 degree view, but come prepared to get drenched if you make the circle around it.

Vestmannaeyjar: These Western Islands are an archipelago chain with beautiful rock stacks that can be explored via a 40-minute ferry ride there and back. Rent an electric scooter or bring your car and navigate your way around as you take in the landscape, including a golf course, crater, several restaurants and a brewery, as well as whale watching and the opportunity to see Iceland's iconic puffins.

The Brothers Brewery: Local brewery and tasting room.

Hopp Scooters: Fast, fun and inexpensive electric scooters for transportation.

Tanginn: Beautiful restaurant at the harbour with full food and drink menus and views of Heimaklettur, Vestmannaeyjar's highest peak.

Bru Guesthouse: Cottages in the center of South Iceland with expansive views of the Iceland skyline. Modern one bedroom and living room tiny houses are roughly ~300-400 square feet in size with a kitchenette.


Reykjavik Roasters: Coffee Shop


Pylsuvagninn: Hot Dog Stand


Vik: Fishing Town


Seljalandsfoss: Waterfall


Vestmannaeyjar: Western Island Chain


Bru Guesthouse: Hotel


Day 3: South + Northwest Coast

Skogafoss: One of Iceland's biggest waterfalls with a ~200 foot drop and 80 feet wide, we visited this waterfall before heading north and west to additional destinations. Walk up close and personal on the black rock or take the 500+ steps to view from the top and soak up the majestic falls alongside the lush green grass.

Fridheimar: This unique greenhouse restaurant concept hosts a stunning setting inland in Reykholt. With four tomato varieties grown within the greenhouses housed amongst the interior and exterior dining, fresh tomato-based dishes are literal vine-to-table transformations that are as beautiful as they are fresh and delicious.

Kirkjufell: One of Iceland's most photographed mountains, coined 'Church Mountain,' Kirkjufell is a distinctly shaped peak found on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula near the town of Grundarfjörður.

Kaffi 59 Bistro Bar: Family-owned restaurant and pub with Icelandic bar food and local drinks.

B59 Hotel: Modern and urban hotel in Borgarnes.


Fridheimar: Greenhouse Restaurant & Bar


Kirkjufell + Grundarfjörðu: Mountain & Waterfall + Seaside Town


Day 4: Blue Lagoon + Reykjavik

Blue Lagoon: The amazing and uniquely Icelandic geothermal seawater in this '25 Wonders of the World' recipient range from a fantastic 100-108 degrees Fahrenheit and offer healthy perks and benefits, including up to three face masks, an in-water cocktail bar, float, and massage spa, VIP retreat spa and out-of-water dining options and more.

Lava Restaurant: Gourmet dining, robes encourage, built into a lava cliff at the Blue Lagoon.

Einstok Bar: Downtown Reykjavik bar offering Icelandic beers on tap and a full cocktail bar selection.

Bastard Brew & Food: Downtown restaurant and bar offering locally crafted beers, a full cocktail menu and dinner.

Kaldi Bar: Cozy, yet upscale cocktail bar with a focus on gin.

Mal og Menning Laugarvegi: Bookstore meets bar and live music venue.

Public House Gastropub: Icelandic chef-driven restaurant and bar with a "Japanese twist" on flavors.


Einstok Bar: Restaurant & Bar


Bastard Brew & Food: Restaurant & Bar


Kaldi Bar: Bar


Mal og Menning Laugarvegi: Bookstore, Bar & Live Music Venue


Public House Gastropub: Restaurant & Bar


Day 5: Reykjavik

ROK: Upscale restaurant serving beautiful shared Icelandic cuisine plates like Reindeer, Archtic Char, Salmon, Mussels and more.

Reykjavik Streets: The iconic Rainbow Road along with street and building murals.


Reykjavik Streets: Rainbow Road + Downtown


And that's my wrap on our Iceland experience! "Worthy of bucket lists?" 100% YES!

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