Is Iceland Even Real?
If you would’ve told me a year ago that I would be traveling to Iceland, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I did, indeed, travel to Iceland last weekend. With its geothermal hot springs, black sand beaches, gysirs, waterfalls, ice caves, elves and the Northern Lights, it seems like Iceland is almost an unreal place. All I kept thinking the whole trip was, “who really goes to Iceland? This is incredible.”
Thursday, 12 March, our AIFS group was off to Gatwick airport to fly to Keflavik. I was stressing because I knew that my duffle bag wouldn’t fit the luggage size requirements for EasyJet, so I borrowed Sibo’s carryon-sized suitcase just to be sure. Turns out that even her suitcase was too big for the EasyJet requirements, but luckily I was able to check my bag for free both to and from Iceland! After getting some airplane snacks and exchanging some British Pounds to Icelandic Krona it was time to get going.
When we got off the plane, my beanie was nowhere to be found. I was really upset because I loved that beanie! But Ashley was nice enough to let me borrow her very warm headband until I could replace my beanie. I prepared myself for it to be a lot colder than it actually was in Iceland. I was pleasantly surprised with the weather when we first got there. It was about an hour bus ride from Keflavik airport to the main city of Reykjavik. Our bus driver got lost and we had to pull over three times before he finally dropped us off at a good spot to walk to our hostel. Once we checked into our hostel, our AIFS staff member, Tony, informed us that our Northern Lights tour for tonight was cancelled, but that we were going to try again the next night.
I didn’t do much research before coming to Iceland, so I really didn’t know anything about it. The first thing I learned about Iceland was that it’s shockingly expensive. It was 9:30 p.m. and we still hadn’t eaten dinner, so a group of us walked around to try to decide where to eat. It was so hard to find a place where the menu items were under 2000 Krona ($15). Finally, we decided to eat at Prikid, which claims to be the “oldest restaurant / cafe in Iceland.” I ordered the “Snoop Dogg” which was a cheeseburger with bacon and sweet potato fries. The burger was cooked a perfect medium rare and the fries were extra crispy. It was the best burger I have had in a long time. After dinner, we headed to bed to be up early the next morning.
The breakfast at the hostel was fantastic. They had items for us to make bagel sandwiches, yogurt, cereal, tea and coffee. After breakfast, a small group of us headed to Hallgrímskirkja which is a church and happens to be the highest building in Reykjavik. The view from the top was breathtaking! I could’ve stayed up there forever looking down on the colorful and beautiful city of Reykjavik. After the church, my friend Adyery and I walked around the town, did some souvenir shopping and took photos by the water. I was looking to replace my beanie, of course, but all of the beanies in Reykjavik seemed to be around 6000 Krona ($43). There was no way I was going to pay that for a beanie, I will wait and see what I can find at Camden Market back in London. We found a little hot dog stand that was selling hot dogs for only 330 Krona — bargain! Hot dogs are apparently a huge thing in Iceland.
One of the highlights of the Iceland trip for me was the guided walking tour. Like I said before, I didn’t know anything about Iceland before coming. Everyone in Iceland seems so relaxed about life. The Prime Minister just walks around town, anyone can go into the back gardens of the Parliament building and there is virtually no crime in Reykjavik — the city prison that only holds 12 people isn’t even full. The people in Iceland believe in elves and they even build houses for the elves. Elves are their way of explaining the unexplainable events that sometimes happen — like my beanie going missing and, after that, Ashley’s headband going missing, our professor’s hat going missing and someone’s Oyster card going missing.
The weather was starting to get really terrible which had me worried because we were supposed to go off to the Blue Lagoon soon. When we were on the bus to the Blue Lagoon, I thought it was going to tip over because it was so windy and rainy. It might as well have been a hurricane. Nevertheless, we made it to the Blue Lagoon and went swimming in the middle of the hurricane. The Blue Lagoon is a truly unique experience. Yes, it is very touristy, but it is a natural, geothermal hot spring that stays around 98° F all year round. The Blue Lagoon was really the best part of my trip, I’m so glad we were able to have fun despite the horrible weather. We were the crazy people in their swimsuits in the freezing cold!
We rushed back from the Blue Lagoon to the group dinner at Restaurant Reykjavik. It was a way fancier restaurant than I expected and I felt so underdressed having come straight from the lagoon. We had three options for dinner: meat, fish or vegetarian. I was the only person from our group that ordered meat — the rest ordered fish. The meat was tender and juicy lamb and it was so good! After dinner we were served some superb coffee and a delicious brownie with fruit topping and sweet custard.
Our Northern Lights tour was cancelled again, so instead we decided that we would check out Reykjavik’s “crazy nightlife.” People in Reykjavik bar hop from midnight to 7 a.m. every single weekend and there are just a ton of people along the streets. By 2 in the morning, I was ready for bed, but the parties were still going on and music was still blaring from all of the clubs.
The next day I woke up from the sound of the wind and rain hitting our hostel building. We arrived in Iceland just in time for the “biggest storm in recent history.” We thought all of our plans for the day were going to have to be cancelled. We were pretty much stuck in the hostel until 2 p.m. when the storm cleared up and we were going to get to go on part of our Golden Circle tour. We got on a coach and drove to Gullfoss Falls, Geysir, where the North American and Eurasian plate tectonics meet and a random Icelandic horse farm. I enjoyed our tour, but was extremely sad when Tony told us for the third night in a row that our Northern Lights tour had been cancelled.
I couldn’t go all the way to Iceland without at least trying to find the Northern Lights. At 5 a.m. Sunday, Ashley, Sophia, Mynue and I walked down to the harbor in Reykjavik because the forecast was supposed to be pretty good around that time. (There were still a ton of people on the streets partying, by the way.) Of course, we knew that we probably weren’t going to get an amazing show since Reykjavik has too many lights, but it was worth trying. We tried to find the darkest spot we could and, sure enough, we were able to see a few faint slivers of green in the sky. It was definitely not bright enough to take any pictures, but we thought it was worth it. I was content. I will get to see the whole show one day!
To sum all of this up, Iceland was just an incredible place to be. The whole city of Reykjavik is so small that I felt like I knew my way around after being there for just the weekend. If you ever get the chance, I definitely 100% recommend traveling to Iceland.
As always, I have made a video! Hope you enjoy it! Shoutout to Judy for the Blue Lagoon videos! Thanks girl.