Iceland has seen a rise in tourism over the last few years, and it is not hard to see why… Iceland is an amazing place to visit. Known as the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’, Iceland truly lives up to its name. Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, and just below the Arctic circle this mountainous country is a contrast between light and dark (dark winters and light summers) and hot and cold (active volcanos and grand glaciers). Either way if you are a lover of dramatic landscapes and adventure, Iceland is the place for you.
Recently we visited Iceland and the experience left us feeling rejuvenated and inspired. We both didn’t know much about Iceland before our trip so we went into the experience with open minds.
We flew from Bergen to the Keflavik airport ( the main airport in Reykjavik) and then from there picked up a rental car and drove into the city.
During the drive, we couldn’t help but notice how unique and strange the landscape was; like being on another planet.
Reykjavik is the largest city in Iceland and the northernmost capital city in the world. This Icelandic city is known for its colourful houses, unique art & music scene and its vibrant nightlife. With plenty of restaurants, cafes, and pubs to choose from, Reykjavik is an attractive city destination with a little something for everyone.
After parking our car we walked through the city centre, soaking in all the sights of Reykjavik. We had heard good things about Reykjavik so we were not surprised when we found ourselves falling for this small but quirky city.
There were many places to shop, all selling cute and quirky things, from traditional touristy items to more local and unique items. We could have spent many more hours just shopping alone.
While walking on the main shopping streets we could see the famous Hallgrímskirkja church towering over in the distance. This church is a famous landmark in Reykjavik, and it is one the largest buildings in Iceland. The unique design of the church was inspired by the nature and landscape of Iceland, more specifically the famous waterfall in Skaftafell park.
After spending a few hours in Reykjavik we made our way to the town of Hvolsvöllur, where our hotel was located. Many of Iceland’s famous attractions are located along Ring road, in southern Iceland, therefore for the time we had, it made sense to stay somewhere outside of Reykjavik.
We stayed at the Hotel Hvolsvöllur which is located off of the Golden Circle (route 1). The location was perfect for our stay and the drive from Reykjavik to the hotel was filled with beautiful scenery; hot springs, horses, mountains and more.
We made it just in time for the hotel’s dinner buffet; which we were looking forward to after a long day of travel. Our mouths were watering from the display of fish, meats, soup, desserts and more. Also offered in the buffet were traditional Icelandic dishes (puffin, whale and more).
Still being on Norwegian time (2 hours ahead) we couldn’t wait to rest our heads for the evening, so after dinner we unpacked and then sank into our comfortable beds for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning we ate a full breakfast from the breakfast buffet and then made our way east along the Ring road.
Driving along the ring road was like discovering a new land every 20 minutes. From empty barren land to rich green farmland and then to land covered in mountains and ice, we were constantly stimulated by the ever-changing beauty of the landscape.
Although we had certain landmarks in mind to start with, we found ourselves stopping along the way when something interesting caught our eye.
Driving through southern Iceland we felt small and almost insignificant as we were surrounded by towering mountains, glaciers and volcanoes. Although there were little to no traces of human civilization, we were reminded of the life that exists on this grand and dramatic landscape. Iceland is a young landmass, and it is indeed very much alive, as we were reminded by the lava fields scattered all around us (covered now in moss). It was an experience we will never forget.
Located on the Golden circle are the Kerið crater, the famous Geyser and the Gullfoss waterfall. Since we were driving from our hotel in Hvolsvöllur we did not drive the full circle, but we were set on seeing at least the Geyser and the Gullfoss waterfall. The drive this time was less dramatic and more inhabited than the day before, but still just as beautiful. As we were making our way towards the Geyser, we noticed the Kerið crater. We decided to check it out. There was an entrance fee of 4 euros, but we paid it anyways and we were glad we did because it was pretty spectacular.
The next day we had to return our car and pick up a new one, so we spent some time in Reykjavik, exploring some more shops and restaurants. At the end of the day we visited the famous Blue Lagoon. It is important to know that the Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland, therefore when visiting you must buy your ticket in advance.
We had originally planned on going during the day, but the only tickets left were for the evening so we arrived for the 8pm slot. The sun was still shining ( as it does all night long in the summer months) and the water was relaxing and warm. We really enjoyed ourselves!
After a few days of driving along southern Iceland, we wanted to stretch our legs and explore the area near our hotel. Although Hvolsvöllur is a smaller town, there are museums, grocery stores and other sit down places to eat ( which outside of Reykjavik are hard to come by).
Two minutes away from our hotel was the Saga Centre, which we had heard about from our previous research, so we were excited to check it out. The museum featured the saga of Njal, which is one of the most famous of the sagas, and also featured some information about the Vikings and their influence on Icelandic history.
Luckily for us, the brand new Lava Centre opened just a week before our arrival. We had driven by it on our way to the hotel and we were curious to check it out. Being brand new, the museum featured state of the art technology, making the experience an interactive and fun experience.
The exhibition includes information about earthquake activity, details about the local volcanoes and other geological information related to Iceland. The museum also featured a cinema which played a captivating and eye-opening film on the volcano activity in Iceland.
At the end of the day we walked up a small mountain, where we had a nice view of the town and the surrounding areas and reflected on our past 5 days in this amazing country.
We had always been intrigued by Iceland, and we knew it would be an amazing experience to visit, but our trip turned out to be so much more than what we expected. The beauty of this country is indescribable, and although you can capture some of it through photos, nothing compares to seeing it in person.
As we flew away from Iceland, we were reminded of how precious and special this planet is, and how it is our job as humans to protect the nature of not only places like Iceland but all over the world.
We fell in love with this country with its friendly people, beautiful nature and its diverse history. We would highly recommended visiting Iceland if you get the chance; it will change your life.