Traveling the southern coast of Iceland

 

Iceland

A family friend reached out to us recently about our trip to Iceland in June. Her daughter will visit Iceland in a few weeks, and she wanted some tips of what to see and what to expect on her trip.

When people hear that we visited Iceland, they have all kinds of questions about what it’s like. Well, here’s the deal: Iceland is magic. The photos can’t really do the landscape justice, but Iceland is one of the most beautiful places on Earth with the kindest people and the cutest animals. One of the best parts was that we were able to add our week-long stopover to our flight home from Amsterdam without any additional airfare.

Let me encourage you to take the trip if you ever get the chance. Iceland is an incredible, almost other-worldly place.

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Some general notes about our trip:

  • We only saw Reykjavík and the south coast
  • We visited in June, which was during the midnight sun
  • Walking on the Icelandic moss feels like walking on a cloud
  • The people are kind and helpful, and fluent in English
  • The food is wonderful, but expensive ($38 hamburgers, $20 cocktails, etc.)
  • Renting a car with 4WD is a must since many roads are gravel and can be steep or winding
  • Driving seemed to take twice the suggested travel time because of the road conditions and the free-roaming sheep, and because I wanted to stop every 10 minutes to take photos
  • The hype over Icelandic horses is real. They are tiny and friendly and cute!
  • Make sure to download offline maps of the areas you plan to visit so you can use your GPS without using data
  • If you’re interested, here’s a Google Map with all of our stops and notes

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Reykjavík

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We loved the colorful homes, street art, and quirky shops in Reykjavík. We stayed at the brand-new ION city hotel in the heart of downtown, and I would highly recommend it.

Need-to-See Sites:
– Walk everywhere!
– Sun Voyager sculpture
– Harpa Concert Hall
– Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral (head up to the top — it’s the highest point in the city!)

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Best Eats:
– Snaps Bistro
– Café Loki
– Rok
– Te & Koffi coffee shop

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ION Adventure Hotel

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For the first part of our trip, we decided to stay a little outside Reykjavík and closer to the sites on the Golden Circle. We spent our first three nights at ION Adventure Hotel, which was fabulous. We spent most of our time in the lounge since it had incredible views and offered half-price food and drinks for happy hour (which, in Iceland, half-price meant it was close to “normal” prices).

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While we stayed at the ION Adventure Hotel, we snorkeled in the Silfra Fissure in the Þingvellir National Park, hiked the Kerið Crater Lake, and saw Geisyr Strokkur erupt several times.

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🙈🙈🙈

A post shared by Emily Paine Smith (@emilypainesmith) on

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We also drove to Fjorubordid Restaurant to try langoustine tails on the specific recommendation of the hotel concierge, which ended up being one of the best meals of our lives! (Not exaggerating.)

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Vestmannaeyjar (Westmann Islands)

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I was so glad we added this stop to our trip! Vestmannaeyjar is a small group of islands off the south coast of Iceland. We went on a volcano and puffin tour, so we learned a lot about the islands, the history of Iceland, and Viking lore. We also MET A PUFFIN!! #lifechanging

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Vestmannaeyjar provided the most Marfa-like experiences of our trip: checking into our hotel was a comedy of errors, but it worked out great (as it usually does). We were able to do a tour and tasting at a new local brewery and ate an amazing meal at Gott.

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Seljalandsfoss Falls

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This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Wear rain gear and walk behind the falls.

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Vik’s Black Sand Beach

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Vik is famous for its black sand beaches and basalt cliffs, which are truly stunning. We saw our biggest groups of tourists at the beach, too.

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Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

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This canyon is a quick hike and provides incredible views. I took this photo on my iPhone!


Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

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While we visited the glacier lagoon, a piece of a glacier broke off and started floating! Chris caught its path on time-lapse.

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You can check out more pics I posted from our three-week trip this summer on my Insta. I’ll share more about our visit to Amsterdam and our several stops in Italy in the coming months! I’ve also gotten a few requests to post about how we packed carry-on only for our trip.

I hope you enjoyed our itinerary! Have you been to Iceland? Is there anything I left out that you are dying to know?

2 thoughts on “Traveling the southern coast of Iceland

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