Next Stop: Reykjavik
Can you believe I made it to Osaka, Shanghai, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Taipei, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Kota Kinabalu, Bali, Orlando, and Korea (duh!) over the past 3 years? When I was in Korea, all I wanted was to escape the freezing temperatures and fly to warmer climates. Now that I’m in Canada, I’m eyeing Europe – particularly the Nordic countries! While I only just started my “new” job in August, I’ve already earned enough vacation days to take a little trip. Hello – dream job! If you’ve been following along on social media, you’ll know that I just got back from Reykjavik, Iceland. With Wow Air flights this cheap, I couldn’t not go!
Toronto – Reykjavik
First things first – my flight to Reykjavik’s Keflavik International Airport was an absolute steal. I’m not fussed over having luxuries like in-flight entertainment or 5-star dining. Let’s be real – I flew Air Asia practically everywhere. I flew Wow Air and paid $235.92 CAD for my round-trip flight from Toronto to Reykjavik. This price was inclusive of HST, Airport Improvement Fee, Air Travelers’ Security Charge, ZU passenger fee, and IS Airport service charge).
Once I arrived in Reykjavik, I booked an Airport Direct shuttle from the airport to the Blue Lagoon at 7:30 AM. My total transfers from the airport to Blue Lagoon and then along to my hostel came to a total of ISK 5,500 ($58.35 CAD). Not exactly a steal, but a great option when things in Reykjavik can be quite pricy.
I decided to ball out at the Blue Lagoon and treat myself to the Premium experience:
- Entrance to the Blue Lagoon
- Silica mud mask
- Use of towel
- 1st drink of your choice
- Second mask of choice
- Use of bathrobe
- Table reservation at Lava Restaurant
- Sparkling wine when dining
From ISK 9 900 ($105 CAD)
The Lamb fillet and shoulder of lamb: Rutabaga, carrots, rhubarb, thyme set me back ISK 4 900 ($51.97 CAD). It’s a once in a lifetime event and I wanted to enjoy every second, but honestly? Not worth it to get the premium – don’t bother with the crappy food at Lava. It’s plated beautifully but lacks any sort of flavour whatsoever. Save your ISK and just get the comfort package. The only extras you get are flip flops, a robe, and an algae mask.
The lagoon itself is gorgeous and relaxing. I didn’t indulge in the spa treatments, but the silica mask you get leaves your face and shoulders feeling baby soft. Heed warning about your hair, though. I thought that covering it in conditioner would be enough, but my hair was a wreck. Trying to pull a comb through it was incredible painful wet or dry, and it lasted for days. Heed the advice of other bloggers and put your hair up in a bun!
Arctic Adventures – Iceland’s South Coast
4 days in Iceland is plenty to scratch the surface. I can’t imagine how many gorgeous places there are to discover. If you’re like me and have limited vacation days, Reykjavik is a great adventure destination even if just for a few days away! Over the course of 10 hours on an Arctic Adventures minibus, we got through the tight schedule of:
- Skógafoss Waterfall
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Sólheimajökull Glacier
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
- Reynisdrangar Basalt Sea Stacks
- Vík in Mýrdalur
- Pick-up & drop off from Reykjavík
- Guided Visit to South Shore Highlights
- English Speaking Tour Guide
- Free WiFi on Board Your Bus
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I went chasing waterfalls in Iceland. I climbed icy rocks to step behind Seljalandsfoss and make my wish. I couldn’t find any evidence of Icelandic folklore to support the idea of making a wish behind the falls, but I had on my trusty HBC boots, my Columbia snowsuit, and propensity for mischief, so behind Seljalandsfoss I went. Can you guess what I wished for? Hint – it wasn’t surviving the climb up out and down the other side!
Skogafoss waterfall (by the way – that’s redundant as “foss” means “waterfall”) was certainly safer than Seljalandsfoss! To get up to the top and get an aerial view of the falls, you can walk up some stairs. It takes about 5 minutes – the record is 3 minutes, apparently. Legend has it that there was once a treasure chest buried at Skogafoss and those trying to reach it would experience delusions. You can read all about it here. I’m sure glad that my wishes come from the heart, and not for the wallet!
The iconic black sand beaches and basalt sea stack formations featured in “Game of Thrones” are found at Reynisfjara. There are a few legends as to how the stacks were formed. One involves two trolls dragging a three-masted ship into land and failing. The other is of a free-spirited woman pulled away from her husband by the trolls, destined to spend eternity among the rocks and sea. As stunning as the landscape of Iceland is, I’m sure it would be even more breathtaking with a partner. I felt incredibly calm, but especially lonely at this beach as a solo traveler.
When I told people that I was visiting Iceland, they told me I absolutely had to go to Vik i Myrdal. I certainly wanted to see the iconic church (Reyniskirkja), but beyond that I wasn’t sure. We only stopped here for a quick view of Reynisfjara and the town of Vik, then we were on the bus and headed for a 3 PM “lunch”. The food in Iceland is already incredibly expensive, so imagine being in a town where a truck stop is your only option for food on the tour. I think I paid $25 for the crappiest, tiniest curry ever. Stick to the hot dogs and burgers, when available. They won’t be cheap either, but at least they’re dependable! I was surprised that in a country like Iceland their fish would be frozen, square, deep fried pucks. Bring food with you on the tour, for sure!
Aurora Borealis: The Northern Lights
If you really want great images you must really know how to use your camera and have a much better tripod than I did. Also – avoid these huge tour groups. They’re big ole money grabs. We were taken an hour in one direction to a chalet where we were expected to buy drinks and souvenirs. The lines were insanely long and it was just pretty uncomfortable. Then, we were brought back in the direction of Reykjavik and further down to the South Coast to a small area near a very brightly lit church. It was very hilly and quite windy – not ideal for a tripod and camera. With drunken idiots stumbling in front of your tripod trying to see the lights through your lens and littering water bottles full of vodka, we were incredibly lucky to actually see the lights dance! This is what it actually looks like chasing the Northern Lights with a tour group.
Photos from my Samsung S9 – I was pretty impressed with the image quality they were able to produce:
Food and Drink in Iceland
Since food and drinks are so expensive in Iceland, your absolute best is to stock up on vodka or even champagne when you get off the plane. Drinks at bars in Reykjavik will cost about $7 – $10 during “Happy Hour” (very common in Reykjavik due to the obscene prices) and $10 – $20 otherwise. Most people who have visited ask me if I survived on hot dogs. I must admit, I ate a couple as moderately cheap sustenance! I took myself out on my first night and a bowl of olives and a pint cost me $20. i suggest you pre-drink at your hotel or even get an AirBnB so you can cook. “Bonus” is the cheapest grocery store around, I’ve been told. Liquor stores are closed on Sundays, so prepare in advance. People in Iceland leave to go out quite late at night, too.
Last Day in Reykjavik
On my last day in Reykjavik I rounded out some of my other bucket list goals. I visited Perlan – Wonders of Iceland. I walked around the city getting great views of Hallgrimskirkja, the iconic Catholic church in Iceland’s capital city. On the way back to my hostel in Hlemmur Square, I saw an incredible mid-afternoon sunset behind the Sun Voyager.
Perlan – Wonders of Iceland is a museum which will really need a post all to itself. The incredible architecture makes way for a 360 observation deck, and since it’s up on a hill you get a phenomenal view of the city, the glacier, and the water. Ut i Blainn, the restaurant inside Perlan’s dome, was another example of overpriced food (better than Lava, however) and piss poor service, but the ambiance was nice and it was a good way to relax before making my way through the impressive exhibits and the brand new planetarium.
Reykjavik for Romance
Iceland is a wonderful place especially for couples and especially around Christmas. It’s an inexpensive flight from Toronto, you can get pretty good deals on AirBnB’s, and there are plenty of ways to relax together or get an adrenaline rush. I would absolutely suggest heading over even if you, like me, only have a few days to get away! Absolutely DO go chasing waterfalls. Let me know if you head to Seljalandsfoss and we can compare notes on waterfall wishes, too – I hope they come true <3
Have you been to Iceland? Where was your favourite place to visit? Let me know in the comments!