The day before moving into our apartment downtown we decided to set up a few fun things to do while we were there with Icelandic Adventures. We popped in and looked at all the amazing tours and excursions that they had to offer. I was instantly sad that we weren’t staying another 2 weeks just so we could do everything. We set up two excursions and we were all set to go for the rest of our trip. The next morning we woke up early and were picked up by our tour guide outside. We were off to go glacier hiking and ice climbing on the famous Sólheimajökull Glacier. We were so excited. After a scenic 2 hour drive we finally approached the glacier. We got out of the car and put on the gear that the company provided us with. They gave us hiking boots, pants, helmets, ice picks, and crampons. Jesse and I put everything on, giggling the entire time because it sounded like our guide was saying for us to put on our tampons (crampons) because of her accent. Yes, we are 10 years old. After we were schooled on everything we were off and walking up the eerily beautiful glacier. It looked fake. It was a marbled intense blue, white, and black. The black is volcanic ash from the volcano Katla that most recently erupted in 1918 as well as the volcanic eruption that everyone around the world knew of in 2010. The ash is marbled in the ice when the glacier melts a little during the warmer Summer months and then it gets trapped in the ice when it refreezes in the Winter months. It is absolutely gorgeous and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Pictures don’t do it justice. As we carefully walked on the glacier, trying not to fall and die, our guide would talk to us and tell us some of the history of the glacier as well as some interesting facts about Iceland in general. Walking around was pretty scary I’m not going to lie. Every step you take you have to think about before taking it. You have to stomp as hard as you can in order for the crampon to stick in the ice good enough to hold your weight at an angle so you don’t fall. We weren’t tethered together so if you fall you better hope you don’t go deep in a ridge. We obviously like to live on the edge. We finally walked into what looked like a glacier grand canyon and approached an ice wall that was easily 100 ft tall. Our guide got out some gear and told us we were going to try our luck at ice climbing. They set up the ropes, demonstrated how to do it, and we were off. I let a few people go in front of me so I could watch them and map out my plan of how I was going to get up there the fastest. I’m a little competitive. Once it was my turn they strapped the rope on my harness and I was off. The most important part of ice climbing is making sure that your front crampon spikes go in straight and not at an angle which is very difficult to do when your legs are shaking uncontrollably and you can’t feel your toes because they are frozen and the only thing keeping you up is you clinging on to the ice picks… but besides that it wasn’t that bad! Little by little I inched up to the top, (definitely wasn’t the fastest one up) kissed the ice, and repelled down. We made our way back to the bottom, took off all of our gear, and jumped in the van.
They provided some delicious sandwiches and other goodies for us to snack on after a long day of hiking. We headed 30 minutes (time for a quick nap) to the gorgeous Skógafoss waterfall. This waterfall is absolutely amazing and you can literally walk right up to it. I just saw an Ipad commercial and this beautiful waterfall was on it! Jesse and I decided that it was worth getting soaking wet for an up close picture so that’s what we did… we got really close and really wet. We got the picture though! Such a beautiful waterfall. We walked around the area for a while chasing the adorable fluffy Icelandic sheep and wishing they would love us like we loved them.
Once we got back to the hotel we decided to change and go walk around downtown for a little while. On the plane ride to Iceland they had the most amazing cooking show on called “Delicious Iceland” that was hosted by chef Volli. The show was incredible and my mission on the trip was to meet that chef because I was instantly a fan. He traveled all around Iceland getting the ingredients to his Icelandic meals and the scenery in every shot was out of this world spectacular. Flash forward to that afternoon of us walking around. Jesse and I were walking around the streets of Reykjavik and decided to stop in this cute little bar to grab some light food and a drink. As we were sitting there Jesse looks behind me and her jaw dropped. I asked her why she was being such a weirdo and then she pointed behind me where Chef Volli was standing in the kitchen. I instantly got so excited that I asked our waitress to please send him over because I wanted to meet him. The waitress responded with “Why, do you think he’s hot or something?”. Uhmm… no you biotch I’m just a fan. She gave me a little attitude and then I told her about my website and cooking and she went and told him. Minutes later he came out and introduced himself and sat down and talked to us. He is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and he was so excited for me to be there after I told him about my website and how much I loved his show. He couldn’t stay long because he had a huge party that he was cooking for that night but he invited us to come to his other restaurant where he would cook us dinner personally. We instantly said yes, he left, and we just sat there giggling for at least 15 minutes because we were so excited. I couldn’t wait! After that we went back to the hotel and just had big bowls of soup for dinner because we were so tired. Tomorrow was another day and that means another adventure.
That day we were to go on our “Black and Blue” tour. I was a little apprehensive about doing this but Jesse insisted. We were picked up at our apartment by our tour group and we were off to the Þingvellir National Park to go explore the underground lava tubes. Lava tubes are a type of lava cave formed when an active low-viscosity lava flow develops a continuous and hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream. We strapped on our headgear with lights and we were off and ready to explore. It’s incredible to walk through and see where all the harden lava is and know that at some point there was lava flowing freely through there. The roof of the tube looked like it was lined with waves. Our guide talked to us about all the lava tubes that they discover and what they learn from them. She also told us folklore tales about all the Icelandic mythical creatures they believe in. After the stories I completely believe in them too, I’m not going to lie. We walked to the middle and then we played a game of who can find their way out of the lava tube. Our team won (of course) by finding the rocks that were covered in metals from when the lava mixed with the oxygen that was coming in. The rocks towards the opening were covered in beautiful different metallic colors so as soon as we saw those we knew that was the way out!
Once everyone was out we we hopped back into the van to head for the “blue” part of the excursion. We were going to go snorkeling through the continental drift that separates the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Yes… we were going to go swimming in freezing glacier water. I was really excited but super nervous at the same time. As soon as we got there it was time to gear up. We had to really layer up in order to not literally freeze to death in the water. Over my leggings and sweater we had to put on a “teddy bear” suit. It was easily a 2 inch thick insulated padded suit. I felt like I was in a sleeping bag. On top of that we had to put on our dry suit. Now that was fun. First we had to put our feet that were covered in layers of socks into the booties at the bottom without falling over. Then we had to wiggle everything up over these huge teddy bear suits. Once we had it on we had to squat down to get all the air out and have someone zip us up so that we were air tight. I felt like Ralph’s brother in The Christmas Story when he couldn’t move his arms he had so many layers on. I could barely walk! Next we had to put on the face mask. Now, I’m not a claustrophobic person but after I put that tight thing on I was mildly freaking out. It was so constricting that I could barely breathe and I wanted to get. out. of. it. immediately. Then to top it off we put on our gloves and I was stuck with the lobster claw one and Jesse got the regular one!!! I was so mad. Oh well, I was in there and there was no backing out at this point. I brought my GoPro and strapped that sucker to my chest and we were off. We walked to the entrance, put on our masks and fins, and slowly got in. There’s a natural current going through so you really don’t have to paddle much which is nice. It’s like a freezing cold Icelandic lazy river. I don’t care how many layers you have on it’s almost impossible to stay warm. I was cold. I put my face in and decided it was now or never and so I jumped in. The water is the most unreal thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen this intense of a blue before in my life. There’s beautiful huge rocks at the bottom and no fish anywhere in sight. Our guide before we got in was telling us that is takes 100 years for the water to come from the glacier and filter through all of the lava rocks to get to where we are swimming. 100 years! It was so crystal clear that you could see down 100 feet like it was 10. Every minute or so I would have to flip onto my back so my head and hands were out of the water. The water was so cold it was hurting and water kept leaking into my gloves so I couldn’t feel my fingers. The entire time I was trying to record the dive on my GoPro but the stupid chest strap kept making it fall so it would point at my legs instead of the water below. My frozen fingers mixed with my lobster claw gloves and a faulty GoPro strap meant terrible videos. After 5 minutes of fiddling with it I decided to forget it and just enjoy this once in a lifetime experience. Not many people can say they were swimming through a Continental Divide. The dive lasted 30 long, cold, beautiful minutes and when we reached the end I got out and quickly peeled off that terrible face mask. Sweet relief!! As we were walking back to the van our guide pointed to a ledge and told us that the Viking’s used to do the “Viking Jump” into the freezing cold water to prove they were men and suggested that we do it. We all agreed to do it and one by one we jumped about 15 feet into the freezing glacier water without our masks and gloves. It was so cold jumping in that by the time you reached the shore the air felt warm. It was only about 30 degrees out too. After everyone did we we headed back to the van to head home.
After a long day of diving the only thing on our mind was an Icelandic hot dog. Before arriving to Iceland when I was doing research about what to do, what to see, and where to eat all I kept reading about were the Icelandic hot dogs. I knew from that moment I had to get my hands on one of those ‘dogs. We went to the most popular hot dog stand called Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. We stood there in amazement while watching the guy top this gorgeous pork, lamb, and beef hot dog with fried onions, raw onions, and this unidentified sweet brown sauce. It was love at first bite. I now knew why it was rated best hot dog stand in Europe. We sat in silence and enjoyed the rest of our delicious dogs before walking around downtown Reykjavik. We stopped in some stores and a few pubs for a brew. Later that night we went to “Icelandic Fish & Chips” for… fish and chips. We ordered the delicious Icelandic Cod and enjoyed every minute of it. After we met up with our British friends that we met diving at a cute little bar called Kaffibarinn. We enjoyed a few cocktails and toasted to our successful day.
The next morning we decided we wanted to rent a car and drive around Iceland a little. With our tours and excursions we had seen a good portion of the South end of the island and wanted to see what else the country had to offer. Driving down the road with absolutely no idea where I’m going is one of my favorite things to do. As we were driving along the scenery was breathtaking. Everywhere you look are snow capped elf-filled mountains, majestic waterfalls around every turn, beautiful green moss covering the ground, and those beautiful Icelandic Horses and sheep that we are still obsessed with. After seeing fields and fields of horses we decided to pull over and see if they would come up to us. The second we pulled over they all came over to the fence to see what we wanted. They were so sweet and friendly and we sat there petting them and taking horse selfies for at least 30 minutes. I never wanted to leave. I wanted to move to Iceland and play with these precious ponies all day long.
We got back in the car, absolutely freezing at this point, and continued on our journey. We followed the road, stopping at picturesque spots to soak in the natural beauty. To be honest I have no idea where we were.
After about 2 hours of driving North we decided we had to turn around and head home. We had a hot date with the famous chef Volli tonight and we couldn’t be late! We got home, quickly changed, and we were off to the iconic Borg restaurant. When we arrived he immediately came out and greeted us and showed us to our table. The restaurant was beautiful. Small, intimate, upscale, and very classy. My kind of place! A guy, Sulli, came over and brought us a delicious cocktail to start out with. We sat there and sipped on our lovely cocktail for a few minutes before he returned. He asked if we would like wine pairings with each course. Well, yes! Of course we do! He told us that the chef would be preparing us the ‘Tasting Menu’ which is basically 9+ courses of whatever the chef decided. 9 or more courses?!…good thing I was hungry. They brought out the first 4 in a bento-box style. It was amazing. There were these delicious smoked lamb skewers in one, langoustine cakes in another, salmon in the other, and these beautiful tiger shrimp in the last. It was so flavorful. Chef Volli worked in the Bahamas for a few years and while he was there picked up on a lot of their spices and flavors which made for an out of this world Icelandic-Bahamian fusion. We had a few glasses of wine throughout our spectacular meal and instantly became friends with the sommelier named Sulli. More and more plates came out and more and more wine was poured. Jesse and I were having way too much fun at this point. Then to top it off we had a two course dessert. Two! Best meal of my life?? Uh… probably. I was honored that he went to such lengths to serve such an amazing meal. Once we were wrapping everything up our new friend Sulli told us that it was his duty to show us a night out of the town. We obviously obliged and we were off to see the spectacle that is downtown Reykjavik on the weekend. Up to this point we didn’t go out much because we had such early mornings but we were ready to have a little fun since all of our early morning expeditions were over. Sulli invited some of his friends to go out with us and we were off. The first place we went was so adorable. It was an upstairs bar that was very industrial chic named Loftið. Yea, no idea how to say that word. Our new friends ordered us a few Manhattans (oddly enough this was our drink of choice the entire trip) and we sat and got acquainted with everyone. One of the friends, Thor, was an Icelandic horse trainer. Another friend, Jon, worked on Iceland Air. And the other friend, Geir, worked down the road at Cafe Paris. I quickly decided that I never wanted to leave so I could be best friends with these guys because they were so much fun. We stayed at Loftið for a few drinks before leaving to go next door to Austur nightclub. Our friends were nice enough to get us a table and drinks and we all spent the night dancing away and having a great time. On the way walking back to our apartment we noticed that glass was all over the sidewalks! I mean, a lot of glass. Jesse and I asked our friends what was going on and they said it is an Icelandic tradition to steal a glass from a bar that you’ve never been to and once you get outside you smash it on the ground. Strange but true. Walking home late at night felt like I was in a college town. These Icelanders really know how to party let me tell you! We got home and quickly went to bed. The next day we wanted to get up and drive 4 hours to the famous glacier bay of Jökulsárlón. Keyword: wanted.
The next morning we had a hard time waking up. One too many Manhattans and who else knows. I glance over to my night stand and see the following: a bottle of water, a bottle of vodka, a half eaten banana, and a half eaten kit kat. I then glance over to Jesse who was sleeping and noticed she was still fully clothed… shoes and all. I took a big drink of water and went back to sleep. Forget Jökulsárlón. I was exhausted and could careless about seeing some stupid glacier. We woke up a little later obviously mad that we slept in and couldn’t make it to the glacier bay but decided to go see other sites that looked cool. First stop was the breathtaking Seljalandsfoss waterfall. What makes this waterfall so amazing is that you can actually walk behind it if you want to! Yes, it is freezing and yes, you will get soaked but it is worth it. We very quickly walked behind it and up the moss covered steps trying not to slip and fall the entire way.
After that we really had no idea where we were going. We looked at our guide books and maps and picked Dyrhólaey as our next stop. As we were driving there it was a mix of snow and rain. Very cold and wet out. Dyrhólaey is known for the volcanic black sand beaches and the black lava arch. We drove on a gravel road following it to the coast. We had no idea where we were going because the roads were not very well marked. We pulled up and the rain was bad. Not only was it pouring but the wind was so strong it was making it come down sideways almost. We sat in the car for a little bit and talked if we should get out or not. We came all this way we might as well just do it. We put on our rain jackets along with our big girl panties and made a dash for it. We ran again the wind/rain/snow mixture to the side of the cliff to look at the black sand beach. There was something so beautiful about the rain coming down and the big waves crashing onto this beautiful black beach. We snapped as many pictures as we could before our fingers froze off and then we ran back to the car. We were completely soaked at this point. The rain jackets didn’t seem to help much.
We drove to the other side of the peninsula where we saw another road leading up a hill. We didn’t really know what was up there but we wanted to find out. Once we got to the top of the hill there was a beautiful lighthouse and in the distance off the cliff we could see the famous arch. The lighthouse was a pretty far walk and it the rain was really ripping at this point. We were already wet so we said what the hell and started running as fast as we could. As we were running to the lighthouse we were running against the wind as hard as we could and we weren’t getting anywhere. We were almost running in place the wind was so bad. We had to have looked like complete idiots running against the wind and rain and barely getting anywhere. I was dying laughing looking over at Jesse because she looked so dumb. We finally made it to the edge and snapped some pictures of the lighthouse and arch. The picture I took of the lighthouse might be one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken to date so I was happy we braved the weather and went there. As we were running back to the car I felt like Usain Bolt. I was flying I was running so fast. The wind was behind us pushing us along and my feet could barely keep up with the pace. I thought I was going to eat dirt at any second. We made it back to the car safe and hopped in.
The next stop was the town of Vík. Vik is also know for it’s beautiful black sand beaches and lava sea stacks that they call Reynisdrangar. We drove through the adorable, small, and very Nordic town down to the beach. Of course the only way to access the beach is by foot and of course it was still raining, though not as bad now. We got out, snapped a few pictures of the Reynisdrangar and got back in the car. After that we drove home because it was starting to get late and we didn’t want to be on the road at dark. On the way back we pulled into a little hotdog drive through stand to get some food because at that point we were starving! We gobbled it up as we were driving home, watching the gorgeous sunset the entire way and talking about how magical Iceland really is and how underrated the country is. The people are so friendly and open, the food is beyond expectations great, and the natural beauty is unspoiled and mystical. Later that night we met up with our new friends at Loftið for a few drinks but we were all still
hungover tired from the night before. We enjoyed a few Manhattans and called it a night. Tomorrow we were leaving and depression was starting to set in.
The next morning we got up and the weather was perfection out. The bluest skies I think I’ve ever seen. Up to now it had been cloudy and rainy which I was expecting anyway so the amazing weather made it that much more difficult for us knowing we had to leave. We walked around downtown and had a huge breakfast at Cafe Paris and did a little souvenir shopping for all of our loved ones at home. Stuffed puffins for everyone! We walked around the harbor and watched all the colorful fishing boats come in and out. We were so sad to have to leave because we had such an amazing time in this beautiful country. When I tell people about us traveling to Iceland and how beautiful it is they are baffled. Iceland? That is so random. Why Iceland? Well, why not Iceland! I encourage everyone I meet to visit this mystical land and I know one day I will be back. Hopefully soon.