If you haven’t already heard it, I’m happy to be the one to share the news . . . Iceland really is worth all of the hype surrounding it.
The recent surge in tourism to this wintry island country has been hard to ignore, with popular bloggers making stops there and my personal Facebook and Instagram feeds blowing up with fantastical photos of an otherworldly Nordic destination. When my friend, Corinne, suggested we follow suit and make the trek, it was hard to say no; I was also craving a little of this icy adventure myself.
Iceland was the first of three stops on our sixteen-day trip across Europe and the UK. And I’ll be honest . . . it was very last on where I was most excited to go. Five days there seemed a little like overkill to me. I don’t mind admitting that I was very, very wrong and I could have happily spent all sixteen days abroad in Reykjavik alone!
On August 18, I hopped on my red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Keflavik without any expectations, which I think worked in my favor. One thing that didn’t work in my favor? My inability to sleep on flights. I spent seven hours in that metal flying machine desperately fighting for a couple of hours . . . just one hour . . . 30 minutes . . . 10 minutes . . . any amount of sleep at all. I can confidently report back that I failed.
That neck pillow that’s getting a ton of rave reviews on Amazon? Yeah, I bought it. And yeah, it seemed very promising with 4.3 out of 5 stars and thousands of shoppers offering their mostly positive feedback. But no, it didn’t work. At least not for me. I guess my height (measuring in at just under 5’9”) is my biggest rival when it comes to in-flight slumber.
Looking back, my fatigue could have been a lot worse than it actually was. Instead of fighting the exhaustion, I decided to settle into it. And in an unlikely turn of events, it ended up putting a thin veil of charm on my first day there. It made things like the fact that our hostel was directly across the street from the Icelandic Phallological Museum particularly comical — a hilarious fact even without running on zero hours of sleep.
[For anyone wondering if we ventured in . . . it was quickly added to our to-do list for our last day we were in Iceland, but after some preliminary browsing on Trip Advisor and the photographs we stumbled upon, we decided on a hard pass. Feel free to take a peek for yourself if you’re interested. Eek.]
Corinne landed from Boston a good five or six hours before I did, so she spent most of that first Saturday roaming around the city and getting a lay of the land until I was able to join. We unexpectedly (but luckily) planned our trip during the Reykjavik Marathon and Culture Night, so the streets were flooded with food stands, live music, and people from all over Iceland and the world.
We were both starving, so before we ventured around we popped into a gastro pub thinking we’d get our grub on with some burgers and beers. That diiidn’t really happen. I guess Icelandic folk don’t have the same idea of what a “gastro pub” is as we do. The beer was accounted for, but the menu featured solely sushi dishes. We both agreed we were too tired and too lazy to get up and find another spot, so we sucked it up, ordered some overpriced sushi, and proceeded to laugh deliriously for the next hour as we caught up with each other and stumbled over our words.
After our meal, we walked around the city, stopping every now and then to listen to some music and take in all of the sights and sounds. Reykjavik was extremely walkable without many hills, which was perfect for our tired states. We stopped at the Sun Voyager sculpture by the water and climbed the stairs of the Opera House before settling onto a grassy hill as the main Culture Night event began. Boy were we in for a surprise.
We had the pleasure of watching an all-female rap group called the Daughters of Reykjavik, known to “spit in both Icelandic and English about everything from sexual violence to feminism and sexual freedom.” All ten to twelve of them (I didn’t get an exact count as they were moving about) were clad in coordinated sweatshirt and sweat pant getups, half in light blue and the other half sporting navy. Their performance (after a few technical glitches) was very “girl power”-y which was cool, but it was also completely uncensored and got a little uncomfortable when they stripped down to their bikini tops (one girl was even preggers) and began to gyrate against the speaker system. Especially since we were sitting smack dab in the middle of hundreds of families with young children. Maybe we were the only ones who thought it was outrageous, since no one else seemed to be awkwardly and then hysterically laughing like Corinne and I.
After a few songs, we decided it was a good time to let the exhaustion take over and finally get to bed. We had an early date with the Blue Lagoon and we wouldn’t want to be late for that one. Spa day in a geothermal pool, anyone!?
Part two of the Iceland post will cover the main part of our trip, which included the Blue Lagoon as well as our glacier excursion and tour of what is called “The Golden Circle”. Below I’ve included some travel notes if planning an Iceland trip is something you’d be interested in pursuing as well. I honestly can’t recommend it enough, and after the next post you’ll see why!
- Flew WOW Airline direct from LAX to Keflavik
- Booked round-trip transportation to and from the airport with Flybus but you can buy tickets at the arrivals area right in the airport
- Stayed at Hlemmur Square Hostel in a shared, all-female room
- Our Blue Lagoon trip was booked directly from their page here, where transportation is an option to include at check out
- Our glacier tour and our Golden Circle tour were booked through Extreme Iceland