One of my biggest passions is traveling. As a lifestyle coach I’m always encouraging people to live with passion and purpose. So, I decided to take some of my own advice and put some more stamps in my passport.
ICELAND HERE WE COME!
My knowledge of Iceland extended as far as the movie, “D2: The Mighty Ducks,” and the assumption that it was covered in ice. Luckily, my husband had visited the island about four years ago and was able to enlighten me of its geography and overall amazingness. I was intrigued. Thanks to the Hopper App we stumbled upon an outstanding deal through Iceland Air that allowed an extended stayover in Iceland on our way to Europe. I’m pretty sure this constitutes as having our cake and eating it too!
DAY ONE – IS THIS PLACE REAL?
March is still winter in Iceland, so when we landed in Reykjavik, the sun had not risen over the Arctic Circle. That didn’t stop us, we had so many things to do and things to see! We drove three hours south to the small town of Vik. It’s a fishing village known for having one of the most beautiful cold-water, black sand beaches in the world. On the drive our eyes were filled with snowy, ice-capped mountains, volcanoes, waterfalls, and herds of fluffy Icelandic ponies huddled together keeping warm. Truly, the land of fire and ice, and consequently the cutest horses ever!
Descending into Vik we were greeted by a long strand of black sand beach and the majestic Reynisdrangar (say that five times fast, or just one time at all!) sea stacks rising up like figures dancing in the ocean. As we walked along the beach I realized I had never seen or touched the North-Arctic Ocean. Spoiler Alert: It was just as chilly as you might expect.
Though we only had 30 minutes to enjoy the beaches of Vík (we had reservations at the famous Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik), it was well worth the journey. The scenery was unlike any other I’d seen in my life. Iceland has so many microclimates and within 15-20 minutes of driving, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a new landscape and new terrain.
One the return drive we stopped by Seljalandsfoss waterfall which is fed from Eyjafjallajökull volcano glacier – these names just roll off the tongue, don’t they? – which drops 197 feet. You can actually walk behind this waterfall. It’s like being in a misty dream.
The Blue Lagoon, if you’re not familiar, is a geothermal body of water that sits on a lava field. It’s a spa, as its waters and silica mud are intensely healing. When we arrived, we’d been on-the-go for 36 hours and were ready for some relaxation. Here’s a travel tip: visit Iceland in March and there are very few tourists. We soaked in the milky blue waters for two hours while pampering ourselves with multiple rounds of silica mud masks – it felt like the whole lagoon was ours alone.
Though we could have spent our entire trip at the Blue Lagoon, we did manage to pull ourselves out, drive to Reykjavik and check into our Airbnb in the heart of downtown. We were determined to beat our jetlag, so we made a goal to stay awake until 10 p.m. To do so meant searching out local beers and Icelandic hot dogs. Hot dogs?! You say. Why yes! Icelandic hotdogs are not just your average beef (or crap) filled dogs. They are made of ground lamb and topped with grilled or crispy onion, and a host of local sauces.
Black sand beaches, walking behind waterfalls, soaking in geothermal waters and mouth-watering hotdogs – there is seriously no other place in the world like this!
DAY TWO – PLAYING TOURIST
Travel note: When in Iceland I recommend renting a car. This was the only destination of our 2-week trip where having a car felt like a necessity. While Iceland does have many tour services, we prefer to be independent and in control of our own schedules.
After getting a full night sleep, it was time to explore the Golden Circle –the main route in southern Iceland covering the most popular sights including Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal geysers, Strokkur and Geysir.
Our first stop was Gullfoss (meaning, ‘Golden Falls’), one of Iceland’s most treasured and well-known waterfalls. Dane’s first visit to Iceland was in September, so seeing the surrounding cliffs now covered in snow and ice gave the setting new drama! Light snow fell as we drove, and I had a perfectly defined snowflake fall onto my scarf. Pure magic!
On our drive to Geysir, we decided it was time to pull over and finally pet a fluffy Icelandic horse. After copious sweet snuggles I was I convinced it was only souvenir I’d want from this trip! Sadly, I had forgotten my horse trailer at home, and Icelandic law prohibits it.
Onward to Geysir, the geothermal area of Iceland. From miles away, you can see plumes of steam rising from the earth, and every 6-10 minutes the smaller of the two main geysers, Strokkur, will erupt up to 130 ft. high. Geysir, the largest of the geysers isn’t as dependable when it comes to showing off and hasn’t erupted in years.
Our last stop on the Golden Circle was a scheduled tour of Raufarhólshellir – underground lava tunnels. This was by far one of my favorite things we did in Iceland! The tunnel is 4,500 feet in length, but tourists can only experience about 3000 feet of it. Iridescent colors of fuchsia, purple, green sparkle on the wet rock all over the tunnel. It felt like I was in a different world. The guide had us turn off our headlamps, and we were enveloped in total darkness. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. It was an incredibly beautiful experience that reminded me of my insignificance in the grand scheme of the natural world.
Dane told me the first question people would ask after traveling to Iceland will be, “Did you try the rotten shark?” He’d tried it on his previous trip and did not die of food poisoning. I’d built it up my mind as an absolutely disgusting, I might vomit just from the smell of it, experience. I’m not one to turn down challenges, so vowed I would try it (just this once). We went to a restaurant on the waterfront called Sægreifinn where Hákarl (Icelandic for “fermented shark”) was on the menu. Hákarl is a national dish in Iceland made from the naturally toxic Greenland shark – comforting. The five-month fermentation and drying process cures the meat and renders it edible (in the general sense).
When I lifted the meat to my nose it smelled of pure ammonia. But, a challenge is a challenge. I quickly stuck the small cube of shark meat into my mouth, chewed and swallowed. Honestly, it wasn’t so bad. I didn’t puke! But, I get why the restaurant serves it with a shot of Brennivin, Iceland’s signature caraway-flavored clear spirit. The foul taste was quickly forgotten once I started eating the main meal of the night, lobster bisque and freshly-grilled seafood.
DAY THREE – GETTING OUR SOUVENIRS
Our last day in Iceland was spent getting hand-poke tattoos (also known as stick-and-poke) at Valkyrie Tattoo Studio. For two tattoo junkies like ourselves, it’s the best way to remember this incredible Icelandic experience.
I’d discovered Valkyrie Tattoo based on a recommendation from the renowned tattoo artist that gave Dane his first hand-poke tattoo in Iceland. She’d helped train our tattoo artist Hertha (thewitchandthesun) in the hand poke application method. On his previous trip, Dane had gotten the Vegvisir, a magical Icelandic stave that represents a compass intended to help its wearer always be able to find their way. This time he’d be getting the “Helm of Awe” on his left forearm, which is meant to inspire fear and awe.
I was getting five wolves running in a pack, symbolizing our five months of marriage. I wanted something that would depict the life he and I were creating together, and wolves are a symbol of loyalty, spirit, and family.
Valkyrie Tattoo Studio provided an extraordinary experience. Not only is it owned and operated by women, but it has crazy views of the North Atlantic Ocean and glaciers to the south. So, while staring out the window at so much natural beauty, Hertha, a native of Iceland, is kindly telling me of her experience growing up in this country. It was one of the most magical, “pinch me” kind of moments I’ve experienced while traveling.
REFLECTING ON ICELAND & WANDERLUST
Iceland is vast, untouched, mysterious and magical. I imagine there aren’t too many places in the world that warrant that description. Our three days only convinced us we needed to schedule our next trip and spend much more time. While I was sad to leave, I took comfort in the travel hack we’d found through Iceland Air. We’ll be sure to schedule our trips to other destinations via Iceland as much as we can.
Getting out of the country and my comfort zone has always been a rejuvenating experience for my mind, body and soul – Traveling is a reminder that we all get into our routines, but occasionally you might just need to eat some rotten shark! Revisiting our passion reminds us of how to cultivate our lives. It is possible to balance life, work, and our love of whatever. We must make our passions part of our priorities. Stick with me, readers. We’ll do it together.
Sjáumst bráðlega (meaning, see you soon) Iceland!