Though I’m not an outdoorsy girl myself, even I have heard of all of the wonders of Iceland. Thanks to an extensive amount of flights, a couple Kardashian episodes, and travel Instagram accounts, it’s the new hot destination. So when there were direct flights added from Chicago to Reykjavik, my family had their next summer vacation booked, outdoorsy-ness or no.
Welcome to Reykjavik! It was only a five hour flight from Chicago, and is being positioned as the ultimate long layover for travelers to Europe. On IcelandAir and some other airlines, you can take a “layover” of up to a week on your way to other destinations, and I recommend you stay as long as you can. One or two days just isn’t enough to get dirt on your hiking boots and really see the country.
I made my boots hot pink so as not to forget my city girl roots, but by the end of the trip even I was walking alongside sheep, washing my hands off in rivers and climbing rocks that made my mom look away in fear. Let’s head outdoors!
SIGHTS TO SEE
- Svartifoss: This is a mother of a hike, but once you see all the super fit Icelanders heading up the hills with ease, it’ll get you going. By far the most unique waterfall we saw all trip, and my mom’s favorite, it’s a sight to behold. Once you hit the waterfall, go back down the mountain on the other side for secondary smaller waterfall views.
- Skaftafell National Park: The national park that holds Svartifoss is also worth a full day’s look! Lots of tourists just drive straight in and out once they’ve seen the waterfall, but there’s also a glacier you won’t want to miss….
- Glacier Hike in Skaftafell: Movies like Batman Begins and Interstellar had scenes filmed on this glacier, which was enough of a selling point for me. But once we got strapped into our special glacier climbing boot add-ons, we all walked where Bruce Wayne and no one fell into a crevasse!
- Gullfoss: There are not enough words to describe how pretty this is (below). It’s the most popular waterfall destination in the country and for good reason. Photos just don’t do it justice.
- Thingvellir National Park: For easier hikes and flatter terrain, this national park is the perfect spot. And, any time of year, you can also go snorkeling! It’s definitely a process to get prepped and in the water, but the geological views are unreal, and then you can say you have swam along the continental divide.
ACTIVITIES FROM REYKJAVIK
If you do only have time to stay a few days in Reykjavik, there are still plenty of day trips you can take while using the city as a base. But be home in time for dinner!
- Landmannalaugar on Big Wheels: Disclaimer: You don’t actually get to drive the big wheels on the tour. Once I got over that sadness, this tour was very cool! You drive up into the Iceland highlands, culminating with a hike through Lord of the Rings-esque landscape and a dip in natural hot springs with some of your closest stranger friends.
- Fish Market Restaurant: I could have eaten here for every meal in the city, and it had hands down the best fish soup we had our whole trip. Come for a drink if you can’t get a reservation because even the lounge has a very cool atmosphere you wouldn’t expect.
- Kol Restaurant: As a food lover, I couldn’t just leave you with only one restaurant recommendation. Try the chef’s tasting menu and relax thanks to their great service and amazing wine menu. This was our last meal of the trip, and it was perfect.
- Blue Lagoon: This is on the way from the city center to the airport so it’s the perfect way to end your trip on a relaxing note. You have to make a reservation, and I recommend trying to get in as early in the morning as possible. It’s very relaxing, if a bit touristy, and it’s something people will ask if you did when you come home.
Overall, even for a more indoorsy, spa vacation type girl like myself, this was an unbelievable trip. Beauty and adventure everywhere I looked, and totally doable hikes and climbs once I broke in my hiking boots. Even my mom loved being out in the nature! This winter is supposed to have some of the best Northern Lights views in years so…it sounds like you all need to book your trip!