Before traveling to Iceland, most of my friends and family were questioning why I would choose it as a place to visit when there are so many other warmer countries to choose from.
After experiencing Iceland for myself and coming back with photos and stories to prove it, I can safely say that it’s worth it to take a visit to Iceland. Once you see all the photos you’ll be dying to go see it for yourself and if you want help planning your own Iceland adventure then I’ve got a guide about planning a trip to Iceland.
The journey started in New York where my friend and I flew from LaGuardia to Keflavik International Airport. We flew with Icelandicair and our flight was only 6 hours and as usual, I slept the entire time. It was crazy windy when we landed at around 10 in the morning, so we had to wait on the plane for 30+ minutes for the wind to calm down before we could get off.
Once we finally got out, I was shocked at how modern and sleek the design of the airport was, even the bathrooms looked like some Black Mirror shit with a sleek all white design and personal sinks inside each stall.
Eventually we made it through customs and collected our bags at baggage claim and then headed outside to the free airport shuttle to pick up our rental car.
Let me tell you, when they said it was windy outside they were not kidding! As soon as we walked out of the airport, we were hit with constant gusts of wind straight to the face and had to tough it out until the shuttle came.
We picked up our vehicle and headed to our Airbnb in Reykjanesbær that was an apartment near the coast of Iceland. I failed to take photos, but if you look at the listing you can see that it’s super modern and has a great open layout.
After chilling for a bit, we took advantage of the little bit of sunlight we had left and went to go check out Bonus which is a discount grocery store in Iceland. The mascot looks like a drunk pig so you really can’t miss it!
It was fun to walk around and see if they had the same brands that we do in the United States, but also super confusing because everything was in Icelandic. We picked up a few snacks and ended the night with a quick drive to Reykjavik to check out the city and see our first Iceland sunset.
The following day, our check out was at 12 so we packed our stuff up and headed to Reykavik to embark on the Golden Circle, but first we took a pit stop at the mall because I was on the hunt for a good smoothie.
Jamba Juice doesn’t exist in Iceland, so I cut my losses and settled for a SKYR yogurt drink. I got the strawberry banana flavor and it ended up being really good, so I would recommend it as a little pick-me-up. Plus, you can pick up at any convenience store throughout Iceland.
On our drive to the Golden Circle, we were instantly amazed at the snowy desolate view that looked like it went on for miles and miles. At first driving in Iceland was a bit scary, because you have no idea where you’re going although, there is way-finding signs along the way so you can relax and enjoy the ride.
The Great Geysir attraction already had a quite a few people when we arrived but it was pretty cold so people weren’t trying to stay outside for too long. It made me a bit anxious waiting for the geysir to go off again, but it definitely worth it to see it blast off in person.
The sun was already started to set after we finished at the geysir, so we wanted to get on the road as quick as possible since we had a little bit over an hour drive back to Hotel Keflavik, which is where we were staying for the night.
We were lucky enough to stumble upon a few Icelandic horses that were just chilling close to the fence on our way back and made a mandatory stop to pet them. Let me just say that they are so pretty in person and are super friendly, since they let us touch them with no backlash. It even started snowing while we were petting them, so that was another great welcome to Iceland greeting.
Our stay at Hotel Keflavik was pretty brief since we arrived late at night and had to be out the next morning, but we obviously took advantage of that hotel breakfast which included croissants, yogurt, and a variety of pastries.
The sunrise from our hotel room window was a dark blue color, which was a preface for the huge storm up ahead we were warned about the night before.
The plan for the day was to drive up to Vik which was a little over two hours away and stay there for the night. It pretty much poured during the entire drive from Keflavik to Vik and it was pretty scary at times, because the field of view was really low when it was pouring hard.
But before we got on the road, we had to get gas and I don’t know if it’s just me.. but getting gas in Iceland is not easy! For starters, it’s priced in ISK and sold by the liter, so you have no idea how much you’re spending. Second, if you don’t have a debit card you won’t be able to pay automatically at the pump since both debit and credit cards in Iceland require a pin. We tried using a credit card so many times, but failed because it kept asking for a pin and after going to three different gas stations, we finally found one that could pre-authorize the pump and allow us to pay after in-store. They do have prepaid gas cards, but it ends up costing you more.
Once that was all set, we were on our way and even though it was super rainy and windy, were able to stop at Seljalandsfoss. Since it was so damn windy, we couldn’t admire it for too long and none of my photos were up to my standards.
By nightfall (which was literally 4 P.M.), we finally made it to our destination, Hótel Dyrhólaey, that was hidden on top of a hill. We had to drive along a winding dirt path at an incline in the pitch black just to reach it, so that was interesting..
Hótel Dyrhólaey has a log cabin kinda vibe with a wooden interior and simple design, so if you’re into that I would recommend it. We booked it in hopes of being able to see the Northern Lights since it’s in a great location, but the clouds from the storm ruined that plan.
Sadly, we were forced to spend the rest of the night in our room, because it was basically a monsoon outside all night.
Sadly the next morning, we missed breakfast which unfortunately ended at 10 am and check out was at 11, so we had to quickly get our stuff together. Once we were packed and checked out, we headed straight to Reynisfjara Beach, also known as Black Sand Beach. It was fairly packed for the weather being cloudy and rainy which made it tough to get photos without a bunch of people in them, but it was definitely still worth it to see.
The waves were so crazy, I swear I have never seen waves that huge in my life before. They were so big that sometimes the tide would come up so high onto the shore that everyone would have to run so they wouldn’t get drenched by the freezing water, although one of the girls did and it was hilarious!
Even one of the guides from a tour bus was yelling at everyone walking around and taking pictures to never turn their back to the beach and that many people die every year, which wasn’t funny.
Jökulsárlón was next on our list and it was another two hours east from Vik and we had only two hours of daylight left, so it was a bit of a toss up if it would be worth it to drive there. We decided to take our chances and were off to Jökulsárlón. On the way there, there are tons of picturesque moments in Iceland and they have lookout spots on the side of the road for you to pull over and take pictures (it’s hard to resist stopping every second!)
Just like the other drives, it was a rainy and windy one, but we made it to Jökulsárlón just as the sun had already set, but the sky was still a calm blue color.
I thought I had felt the complete wrath of Iceland wind when we first landed but nope, because I swear it was over 40+ mph outside. To give you a visual, we had to hold onto the car door, so it didn’t fly off when we got out of the car.. it was THAT bad.
We had to trek up a hill to see the ice glaciers and I had my camera clutched under one arm and my other trying to shield my face almost the entire time, because the wind felt like shards of glass puncturing your skin.
We got a few hilarious Polaroids trying to brave the wind, but we’re definitely taking L’s. Besides these circumstances, I managed to get a shot that I liked!
By the time we were done, it was pitch black, so we started on our 4 hour drive back to Reykjavik to stay at Hotel Island for the next few days and hopefully beat the snow storm that was on its way.
After driving through a monsoon, snowy weather, bumpy roads and making it back to Reykjavik in one pieces, it’s safe to say that I can probably drive in any condition. Except maybe in India, I don’t think I’d be able to handle that.
Due to the two day snowstorm in Iceland, we just stayed in the hotel since a majority of the roads and attractions were closed. Rather be safe than sorry, especially being in a foreign country and driving in a rental.
When we finally emerged from the inside, we were greeted with a nice solid sheet of ice and snow all over the car. It had snowed so much that it was a thick layer and took forever to scrape off.
Eventually we got the windshield and back window clean and headed back to the Golden Circle to explore the vast white landscape even more. There was SO much snow everywhere and the craziest part was that everyone was driving like there wasn’t snow all over the road that you could barely see the lanes.. casual.
Since we weren’t trying to go to The Great Geysir again, we made a spontaneous turn down a random road and stumbled upon the most enchanted winter wonderland that my eyes have ever laid on. It was so serene, that it looked like a fantasy since all the snow was untouched and the sky was a beaming blue. It was the best gift from Mother Nature to end our last night in Iceland.
Once we were back driving on the main road, we came across a waterfall in Þingvellir National Park called Öxarárfoss and it was absolutely stunning, especially with the snowy layer. There’s just something about fresh white snow that really makes a landscape even more beautiful. There was a bit of a walk up some steps and through the snow required and once we got back to the car our feet were actually frozen, so be sure to layer up your socks when you go exploring Iceland in the winter.
While we were aimlessly driving, we stumbled upon a horse farm and of course took more pictures with the beautiful Icelandic horses!
Since we hadn’t really explored the city of Reykjavik, we wanted to see the classic Iceland church, Hallgrímskirkja, and headed there on our way back into town. The church was really beautiful and you can pay to see a view of the entire city from the top, but we were starving and not willing to wait in line.
The downtown is definitely not something to miss, I absolutely loved the vibe of downtown and all the different colors of the buildings and the unique graffiti on the walls. Since the sun was already setting, we decided to come back the next morning to take pictures.
We ended up trying our first Icelandic meal at Block Burger which is similar to a Shake Shack, but two burgers that includes a drink and fries cost us $39 USD, which is insane!! The burger definitely wasn’t worth $20 and the only good thing was the fries.
After our meal, we did a bit of souvenir shopping and got a feel of Reykjavik at night as we walked through the downtown. It was calm and I felt safe enough to walk by myself if needed.
Our final day in Iceland began by checking out of Hotel Island, admiring our final Iceland sunrise, and driving back to downtown Reykjavik to take photos of downtown during the day. We only had a little less than an hour to walk around, because our rental was due at 3 P.M. with a 5 P.M. flight and it was already almost 2 P.M.
There are so many different cool shops in downtown that you could honestly spend hours there, and we stumbled into a few vintage thrift shops which had some pretty dope stuff, but of course they were quite pricey.
There were also a lot of different types of restaurants there that I will definitely have to try next time I’m in Iceland with more money to spend on food.
(not in focus, but too pretty not to show!)
The last bits of the trip were boring and annoying because all it entailed was the typical returning the rental, getting to the airport, checking our bags, going through security, you know the whole drill.
Overall, my trip to Iceland was amazing and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is up for an adventure and wants to experience a landscape you’ve never seen before. If you’ve already got a trip planned and don’t know what to pack then see what I packed for my trip to Iceland.
Have you been to Iceland before, what was your favorite thing to see? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading and stay hungry to learn, create and grow!