If you’re an Instagram follower of mine, you likely saw some posts from #SarahsSoloTravels a few weeks ago. I went on my first long trip alone – and learned a lot along the way. While I’m planning a specific post about traveling alone, today I want to share a little bit more about my experience in the first place I visited: Iceland.
This is unlike a lot of my other posts, and is more meant to be almost a journal of where I went and what I saw. If you want to relive my trip with me – thanks for tagging along! But no worries if you’d rather skip over – It’s a longer than normal post!
Day 1: Sunday
I landed in Iceland at 4:50AM Icelandic time – 1:50AM in my head. Check in at my AirBnB wasn’t until 3PM, and my jetlag for the rest of the trip depended on that first day, so I knew I had to push through. Luckily, I had about an hour long wait until I was off to the Blue Lagoon straight from the airport. I had learned from reading a few other blogs that seeing the Blue Lagoon early, right after you land, was one of the best times to do it. Besides the fact that you get to shower off all the plane germs, get an automatic ride into the city of Reykjavik, and nothing else is fun and open at 6:30AM – you also get to miss the crowds. The Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular thing s to do in Iceland – and for good reason- so it sells out every damn day. Basically, every day you have a time slot where you need to ENTER the lagoon, but you can stay as long as you’d like. Some people stay for hours, and then the showers and the lagoon itself get pretty crowded because no one leaves. So, going early is recommended.
The Lagoon itself is on my must-see list for sure. It’s one of those things that is just so quintessentially Iceland that you really can’t find anywhere else. The water is soothing against the bitter cold of the air, and you feel like you’re in a different world. I spent probably two hours walking and swimming around the lagoon, putting on face masks, swimming up to the bar for a glass of prosecco, and just lounging around. It was the perfect way to ease into the trip, having something to do but also being super relaxed.
After almost taking a nap in the relaxation chairs between the prosecco, heat, and my already tired body, I took a shower and hopped on the first bus into the city. I got dropped off sort of in the middle of the city and walked to find my AirBnb, drop off my stuff, and come back to explore downtown.
I stopped for brunch at Laundromat Cafe – a really adorable restaurant that also has a laundromat downstairs. The shelves are lined with books upon books, and they have games and magazines for you to borrow if you want to stay awhile. I ordered a green tea and their ‘Dirty Breakfast’ – basically everything you could possibly want in a brunch: Eggs, sausage, bacon, grilled tomato, yogurt and granola, pancakces and nutella, potatoes and fruit. It’s like I hadn’t eaten for days.
The city of Reykjavik is TINY. You can walk the whole thing in a day FOR SURE but it’s nice to have more than that to explore its little nooks and crannies. On this first day I walked around a lot of the must sees: the Sun Voyager (or Sólfarið, a cool sculpture on the water), the Harpa Conference Hall, and Hallgrimskirkja, their modern cathedral that looks nothing like any other cathedral I’ve seen.
I stopped for dinner at the famous hotdog place in Iceland, called Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. I later learned that this tiny little stand that always has a line around the block is the “best hotdog in Iceland” because Bill Clinton came once and said it was. It was a good hotdog, sure, but the mustard was too sweet for me. I walked around further still, grabbed a glass of wine at a bar by myself, then headed back to my AirBnB, exhausted and excited for the next day.
The AirBnB I stayed in was ADORABLE. When I say adorable, I truly mean adorable. It was the perfect little place for little ole me to stay by myself, with a small kitchenette, a beautiful bathroom and a comfy bed to sleep in.
Day 2: Monday
After struggling to wake up in the morning, I just barely made it to the walking tour at 10AM. I chose to do the Free Walking Tour through CityWalk, and I am SO glad I did. Our fearless leader, Disa, spoke six languages, was a super feminist, and just an overall lovely person.
I learned a lot of crazy facts about Iceland that I found so interesting:
- Only 300,000 people live on the whole island, 2/3 of which live in Reykjavik. Its TINY.
- 1.3M people visit Iceland as tourists each year, which ends up equating to about 10% of their whole GDP
- Because the Icelandic language is so crazy, there is an approved list of names you must be named from! Apparently every name needs to be able to be conjugated four different ways, depending on what you’re saying, so every name has to be approved and have four official versions before a child can be named.
After the tour, I ended up getting a sandwich at the adorable Stofan Cafe before getting a cinnamon bun at Brauð & Co. and then heading to get picked up for the afternoon Golden Circle Tour. This tour went to the Geyser, Gulfoss Waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park, all in about six hours.
We started at the Geyser, and I had one of the craziest things happen – a girl from my high school was there! It felt like such a great sign from the universe that I was going to be good on my own on this trip – that friendly faces would show themselves as I traveled alone. The Geyser was cool – definitely worth seeing – but smelly! The hot sulfur in the water makes for some stinky egg smells.
We then traveled to the Gulfoss Waterfall, truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. You’re just driving in the middle of nowhere, pull over into a parking lot, walk 100 feet, and there’s the most giant natural waterfall. It was surreal – especially since it seems to appear out of nowhere.
Next up, the National Park, Thingvellir. It was really really cool to briefly walk around and made me already know I wanted to come back. I stood between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, mostly just saying over and over in my head how cool the world is and how much of it I’ve yet to see.
After taking the tour bus back into the city, I went to Verbud II in the Marina for dinner. It was close to my AirBnb and I knew I wanted to have some seafood on this trip even though it would be pricey. I ordered a seafood pasta with a lemon cream sauce and it was HEAVEN. I read my book, A Man Called Ove, and drank a gin and prosecco cocktail successfully conquering my fears of eating dinner alone.
After getting my stuff together for the next day, I decided to go out late to try to see the Northern Lights. I wanted to go to a place where there were no lights and no one around, but I was also petrified of going somewhere where there were no lights and no one around. After deciding the Marina was going to be too creepy, I headed into town where I ended up Park Arnarhóll, one of the main parks in town. It was here, I came across two lovely women from Chicago, hollerin’ about how beautiful the sky was. I immediately knew these were my people. I stayed out with them until about 1:30 watching the green lines move in the sky, before turning around and walking back to my AirBnb.
Day 3: Tuesday
Tuesday was a big day of touring, as I found myself on the South Shore Adventure tour from about 9AM – 8PM that day. We traveled along the southern border of Iceland, stopping briefly to see Eyjafjallajökull mountain, then traveling along to the town of Vík. We stopped there for lunch and some gift shop shopping, then made our way to the Reynisfjara black sand beach, which has the Reynisdrangar rock formations and columnar basalt. Again, I was just in awe of what exists in the natural world. We stopped by Sólheimajökull, with a stop in Skógar, a small village next to Skógafoss. There we visited the Skógar Folk Museum (something I would skip, tbh), but it was interesting nonetheless.
After all of that, we headed to the final two stops of the day, the two waterfalls: Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Skógafoss is the large one (see rainbow pic below) also has a path of stairs where you could walk up to see on top of the waterfall. We didn’t have the time, but it was AGAIN another spot I wanted to return to. We ended at Seljalandsfoss waterfall to walk around and behind it – getting more or less soaked with the wind and water. It was SO cool to be on the other side and walk completely around.
That night, I had to get up early to travel the next day (read: I had to wake up in the middle of the night), so I got dinner at Sæta Svínið Gastropub, got a burger and a gin and tonic, and chatted with a librarian from San Francisco at the bar. I then strolled back to my place in the marina, attempting to get a few hours of sleep before moving along.
I really loved Iceland and I’m so glad I went.
Where I ate:
- Laundromat Cafe (Brunch/Lunch)
- Stofan Cafe (Sandwiches and coffee)
- Baejarins Beztu Pylsur (Hotdogs)
- Verbúð 11 (Seafood)
- Brauð & Co. (Cinnamon buns)
- Sæta Svínið Gastropub (Burger and a beer)
Where I went:
Where I stayed: