There are so many things to do, but I’ve put together a short list of the “must-sees” for the first time traveler to Iceland.
We went for a week, but lost a day due to our flight being cancelled on WOW Air, and let’s just say the day after New Years Eve was a bit…slow. haha
Speaking of NYE, I highly recommend ringing in the new year in Iceland. They really know how to party, the locals and travelers are wonderful and they can dance till 5am. My kinda people! ;)
They also have an INSANE firework show. We saw them from a rooftop downtown and I have never seen anything like it; literally 360 views of fireworks lighting up the sky. It was surreal!
But here’s a list of things to see anytime!
1. The Blue Lagoon
A destination you can’t miss! It’s as beautiful as the pictures, but actually not as hot as I thought it would be. The temperature is tolerable and very comfortable. Before heading into the water, store your belongings in your locker and rinse off in the shower. It is VERY important to leave a good handful of conditioner in your hair as the silica in the water WILL leave your hair feeling coarse and dry. If you have dyed hair, I would even suggest bringing your own strong conditioner from home just for this destination. (or you can put your hair up in a bun of course, but where’s the fun in that?)
Employees will give you a mud mask once you are in the lagoon (it made my skin a bit red, but the next day my skin felt amazing! Just be sure to not use too much). They also sell smoothies and alcoholic beverages in the lagoon.
TIP: Make sure you have a waterproof phone case with a lanyard for your iPhone because you won’t want to miss out on capturing this experience. I was able to take pictures and video through the plastic and using Siri to open the camera app. A GoPro would also work great for capturing footage, but if you drop it in the water good luck finding it throughout all the feet and very blue water. We brought our GoPro Session and dropped it! The only reason we found it after looking for it with our feet is because we had a tripod attached to it, so it was big enough to finally find.
2. The Golden Circle
I highly recommend renting a car, it’s the best and easiest way to see Iceland. The Golden Circle is an incredible route with scenic views and 3 main stops: Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the geysers in Haukadalur.
3. Helicopter Tour
If you’re willing to splurge a bit Norðurflug has some remarkable tours. I recommend choosing a tour with at least one stop so you can get out, take some pictures, and possibly even have champagne (Heli Happy Hour – which is what we did)! I would also suggest booking a tour early on in your vacation so if weather decides to work against you and they have to cancel the tour, they will always move it so don’t worry, you’ll have some cushion days to work with.
4. Northern Lights
Ahh, it’s still unfortunately on my to-do list for Iceland. They come out when they want, we waited all night. Again, I would recommend trying to see them as soon as you get to Iceland, so if you don’t catch them on the first night, you can try every night after that. Definitely book a tour because they will bring you to the destinations where you will most likely see them, they also have these MONSTER Mercedez super jeeps that will get you through the snow safely. Be sure to ask or check on Google Maps on your phone where exactly you are so that if you miss the Northern Lights, you can try to drive nearby on your own another night.
5. Hallgrímskirkja (Church)
It’s the largest church in Iceland and has an incredible pipe organ inside. It’s located in the heart of downtown Reykjavik, you can’t miss it!
7. Sólheimasandur Plane Crash
The plane is on a black sand beach, it’s awesome! And just to note there were no fatalities in the crash in 1973, they just abandoned the plane and it ended up being a cool tourist destination. Finding the actual location can be a bit confusing so here is a site to help guide you there. Once you are at the beach, it’s a 40 minute walk to the plane so about 1.5 hours total. Try to go early because it can get quite packed. The plane on black sand makes for some pretty spectacular photos!
Iceland is truly remarkable, I fell in love with the city and will definitely be visiting again! All of the locals spoke perfect English and were so welcoming. Always keep in mind that the weather is very unpredictable so try and plan your days accordingly. And one last thing, try to book your stays as early in advance as you can, Iceland is PRICEY! I live in San Francisco and met a British friend from London and we both thought the prices were outrageous.
Iceland’s worth it though! ♥