Updated: Oct 21, 2019
Hello friends, @samanthajane_d here. We can't wait to tell you all about our adventures in Iceland, the beautiful country of fire and ice.
While we love traveling as a couple we also enjoy trips with our friends. We value our time together but we also value spending time with the people we love. During August of 2016, two of my best friends and I went to Iceland for 5 days. One of the coolest parts of this trip was Iceland’s summer sun. Iceland in the summer has daylight for almost 24 hours! This meant we had even more time to explore the island. A few of the nights we were rushing to find somewhere to eat because we would forget to eat dinner with the sun still up and shining at 9pm. We rented an Airbnb which we found both affordable and adorable with a fantastic location near the center of Reykjavik. Another great part of our Airbnb was the blackout drapes. These helped us sleep since the sun was still up when we would go to bed and would rise again far before we would wake up. For reference, we got maybe 2-3 hours of darkness a night.
I flew from Chicago, IL to Reykjavík, Iceland, with a connection through Minneapolis, MN on Delta, but it was 100% worth the long flight I met my friends in Reykjavík after they had already been in town for a day. They picked me up with the car we rented to allow us to travel around independently. Without renting a car you are reliant on signing up and paying for a bus or tours to transport you around the island. We preferred to set our own schedule and explore off the beaten path.
On our first day in Iceland, we went to Thingvellir National Park. It took us about 45 minutes to drive to Thingvellir. Thingvellir is one of the most visited destinations in Iceland and if you get a chance to go you’ll understand why. The park lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This means it is the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Make sure you go to Everyman’s Gorge! There you can actually walk between two different continents!
After visiting Everyman’s Gorge you should go to Geysir. Geysir is a famous hot spring in a geothermal area where you can see a geyser shoot boiling water 70 meters into the air. After that, it’s just a short 9 minute drive to Gullfoss Waterfall. Let me tell you, this is an impressive waterfall. The Hvita River flows through the canyon to create this masterpiece. The waterfall is a three-step “staircase”.
After Gullfoss we drove about 45 minutes to the Kerio Crater. Kerio Crater is a volcanic crater lake. This volcanic crater is famous because it is over 3,000 years old! The land owners do charge a small entrance fee. Travel Tip: One cultural difference for me was paying to use public bathrooms, so make sure to keep cash on you.
This was an adventure day! This was the only day we relied on tours for our exploration. We started by being picked up in Reykjavík and were driven out to a ranch. Here we were given all of the horseback riding equipment we could need and an Icelandic Horse! Icelandic horses are shorter and stouter because they need stronger legs to help them navigate such tough terrain. The tour we took was through the volcanic landscape. The tour was suitable for beginners but they did offer tours for more advanced riders. The tour took approximately 3 hours from start to finish and none of us fell off our horses! We booked through Ishestar and we would recommend using them.
Next we went scuba diving in the Silfra Fissure. The water here is between 2–4° C (36–39° F) so you will need a drysuit when you scuba. We used the company DIVE.IS and I would definitely recommend them. They provided us with a guide, scuba gear, a wet & drysuit, along with gloves and boots to protect your hands and feet from the cold temperatures. The Silfra Fissure is considered one of the best places in the world to scuba dive because the water is so clear you can see up to 70–80 metres (230–260 ft). The water is also so clean you can drink it (which we did while scuba diving) because it is being fed from Iceland’s second largest glacier. Another fun fact is when you scuba dive here you are swimming between two tectonic plates (the North American and Eurasian plates).
On Day 3 we took to the road and explored the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. There are many nature attractions along this route and endless options. We started our day by stopping at the Londrangar Pillars. The pillars have existed since the island was settled about twelve hundred years ago. These two towers are believed to be ancient volcanic plugs that have endured the force of nature of countless years. The highest pillar stands at 76 metres (246 feet) tall and the shortest one is 61 metres (200 feet) tall. The pillars are located along the shoreline, letting the Atlantic Ocean provide gorgeous views.
Next we drove 20 minutes and stopped at Skarðsvík Beach. This beach is one of the only golden beaches in Iceland. While we here we, of course, enjoyed the beach, but we also climbed up to Saxhólsbjarg Cliff. This provided sweeping views of our surroundings. After this we drove another 20 minutes to Djúpalónssandur, also known as the Black Lava Pearl Beach. The whole beach is made of small, smooth black pebbles called Djúpalónsperlur. or the Pearls of Djúpalón.
After enjoying the beaches and hiking, we began our drive home. We stopped along the way as we saw fit to check out waterfalls, mountains, and stunning scenery. We stopped in the small seafront village of Vík í Mýrdal to grab a bite to eat at Suður-Vík. It had a beautiful view of the water and a cozy vibe. We happily let this drive take up our entire day before returning to Reykjavík to enjoy a bit of the nightlife.