It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where my extra money goes. There are a few recurring categories.
3. Forever 21
That pretty much sums up my free time. And quite frankly, I have zero complaints about it. I’m a sucker for a decadent cheese tray, a front row view of my favorite artist, a new chic outfit and exploring somewhere I’ve never been. I’ve been fortunate to travel to some incredible places over the last few years. This can really be attributed to firstly, selfless and giving in-laws and secondly, Groupon.
Someone recently asked me what sparked a desire to visit Iceland and I jokingly responded, “Groupon.” It’s true. Iceland had never been on my radar as a bucket list destination. But luckily it appealed to Chase’s parental units and discovering an amazingly priced vacation package, they booked a trip.
Most people are hesitant to purchase a Groupon Getaway because they’re fearful of what they’ll really get after investing the money. Well I’m a walking testament that utilizing Groupon to book your vacation is actually a very wise and budget-friendly method. Specifically, using Groupon to book a trip to Iceland is a no-brainer. They frequently post the deal which can sometimes be obtained for as little as $700 per person for both the flight and hotel for the duration of your trip. Don’t like which city the flight leaves from? No problem. You can call and have the airport changed for a very minimal fee.
Just in case you succumb to temptation and decide to take some time to explore beyond your county lines, below are my suggestions for what you should do when you’re in Iceland. I’m not an expert by any means, but I have a passion for placing my feet on foreign soil and I can create one mean travel itinerary in a mere matter of days.
1. Explore Reykjavik
If you purchase a Groupon, your hotel will be assigned for you and will most likely be located within the city center of Reykjavik. For our trip, we stayed at 22 Hill Hotel which was a quick 15-minute walk to the hub of the city. The city itself is quaint, compact and bursting with coffee cafes, shops and restaurants. You’ll definitely want to navigate to Hallgrimskirkja which is the largest church in Iceland. Take in the cinematic experience of the reflective glass on the facade of the Harpa building which is located by the old harbor. Be sure to take advantage of the photo opportunity next to The Sun Voyager. If you’re dedicating a day to walking around the city, you’ll want to make sure you have an umbrella or hooded jacket. The weather in Iceland is bipolar. It goes from sleeting rain to sunshine to blizzard back to sunshine in the course of about four minutes. Given the city is condensed, we never had to take a taxi or public transportation and were easily able to navigate throughout by foot.
2. Take a Tour of the Golden Circle
When booking day excursions for trips abroad, I commonly use www.viator.com. I have found them to be a highly reliable source for securing adventures, arriving on time and exceeding expectations. I enjoy having an English-speaking tour guide, someone to offer insight and comfortable transportation, which picks you up and drops you off at your hotel. The Golden Circle includes exploration of ancient volcanoes, shooting geysers and breathtaking waterfalls. You’ll visit Thingvellir (the oldest functioning parliament in the world), Geysir and Strokkur hot springs, Skalholt church and Gulfoss waterfall. It’s an easy way to pack in a variety of Icelandic must-sees.
3. Try to Catch the Northern Lights
I went into our trip to Iceland with extremely high expectations for seeing the Northern Lights. I had convinced myself it would happen and that it would be one of those defining moments in my life. Instead, our excursion to see the Northern Lights was cancelled twice because of bad weather and when we were finally able to give it a shot, we rode a motor coach into the wee hours of the morning, chasing them through a snowstorm with no avail. And just because we didn’t have success (Don’t worry. We were frequently reminded at how abnormally bright they were the weekend before we arrived. Insert shoulder shrug.) doesn’t mean that I don’t encourage you to try. I can only imagine how incredible it would be to catch those dancing lights in action. And even if you miss out like we did, at least you’ll enjoy a premium dinner at a gas station and hear some of the most unbelievable (Like they seriously had to be made up.) stories from your Icelandic bus driver.
4. Go Snowmobiling on a Glacier
I have never felt so small in the world as I did when we went snowmobiling on a glacier. It was a spiritual moment for me. Reminding me how incredibly microscopic we are in the grand scheme of things. The ride from camp up to the start of the track in a “Super Jeep” (as they call it) was an adventure in itself because you’re crammed in like sardines, dressed in full thermal gear from head to toe and your head is repeatedly hitting the top of the vehicle. Once on the snowmobile and after a very brief instructional speech, you’re led up the mountain by an instructor in a single file snowmobile line. Reaching the top of the glacier is mesmerizing. You’re surrounded by a sea of white and stillness. Imagine how quiet and peaceful the world is when it snows and then multiply that by a thousand. It’s incredible. It’s also a bit worrisome once a snowstorm begins because you can’t see your hand in front of your face, feel your fingers or let alone drive a snowmobile. My mind started to drift to one of those “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” shows and I may have internally panicked when a few vehicles in front of us ventured off course and we had to wait like sitting ducks for the instructor to come and find us. Nonetheless, do it just so you can experience the range of emotions.
5. Spend a Day at The Blue Lagoon
Let’s say you hate everything I’ve suggested so far. That’s fine. If you do one thing I recommend and one thing only, visit The Blue Lagoon. I have never experienced and I highly doubt I’ll ever experience anything like it. In a nutshell, The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa. An elongated explanation is that it’s a man-made lagoon which is fed by superheated water vented from the ground near a lava flow. The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur. Now listen closely and heed my advice. Buy your tickets in advance and buy a premium ticket. Don’t go cheap on this. You won’t want to wait in the ridiculously long line and you will most definitely want the bathrobe that’s included with a premium ticket. After you arrive and check in, you will be given a wristband, which acts as a key for your electronic changing room locker. You can also use your wristband to buy drinks and food while you are in the spa. It works like an in-water credit card in the sense the you just pay for anything you charge to the wristband when you leave. Before entering the lagoon, you’ll be led to a changing room and instructed to shower. They’ll provide you with special conditioner to use on your hair. Do it. Trust me. The lagoon water will cause your hair to become dessert dry and brittle. Once you’re actually in the water, forget about everything else going on in your life or in the world. Enjoy the steam baths and saunas, apply the silica mud mask, redeem your drink credit at the swim-up bar and relax. If I had it to do all over again I would have allocated more time at the Blue Lagoon than just a few hours and I would have indulged in a spa service like an in-water massage. The Blue Lagoon is sensational by mixing cold weather with warm water, blue waves with black mountaintops and relaxation with exploration. A true wonder of the world.
There you have it. My five tips for visiting and soaking up Iceland. Now, go forth young adventurers. The world’s waiting on you.