If you've been following along on Insta this week, you know that we've been spending some time in Iceland! This country has been on Porter and I's bucket list for awhile now, and the fact that it is oh-so close to Boston (only a 5 hour flight!) made the lead up to this trip that much sweeter.
Since this is our first post from Iceland, we thought we would talk about our five day itinerary. We want to cover this up-front because, let's be real, Iceland is overwhelming. Driving there feels like passing through any other country's top ten must-see sites every hour. You will quite literally be drowning in opportunities for sightseeing, if you don't put together some kind of scheduling life raft. I spent weeks on Instagram figuring out exactly what we wanted to see and what we wanted to skip. Initially, I had us sleeping about four hours a night in order to be able to drive and shoot everything we wanted to in the north and the south. I think that was probably a caffeine-infused morning decision, because about a week before we left Porter basically said, "Well, that's not going to happen," and I realized pretty fast that he was right...
So what were we able to see in four nights, where did we go, and in what order?
Here are all the details:
Day 1 :
We landed in Reykjavik at around 5:00 am Iceland time, pit-stopped at Joe & The Juice (there are 3 in the airport!) then headed to pick up our Mink Camper, a teardrop shaped mini trailer equipped with all kinds of modern conveniences (a real mattress, heat, wifi, a gas stove, you name it). This past year, Porter and I haven't camped or camper-vanned a single time. In fact, in our entire relationship I think the only times we've gone camping together were on middle school field trips circa 2008.
Port definitely has more legitimate camping experience than I do (most of the tents I've slept in were pitched in friends' backyards), but lately we've both been craving the freedom that comes with not being accountable to returning to a "home base" at the end of every day. Man, am I happy that was the case, because living in the Mink turned out to be SO INCREDIBLY essential to our overall enjoyment of Iceland. I cannot tell you just how amazing it was to see everything we wanted to see without a single tourist around because we were able to wait out that 8 am-5 pm tour bus window, and sightsee after a homemade dinner until around 3 in the morning every. single. night.
But we'll go into more detail on the Mink and why we were so obsessed with it later this week.
Back to day one:
So we landed, grabbed our car & camper, and got on the road. Our first day's plan was an ambitious one: driving jet-lagged about six and a half hours across the south coast to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and then onto a scenic campsite in Hofn.
We got about halfway, pulled over for a three hour nap, then eventually made it. It was tough, but we knew that we would rather have a long first day and spend each consecutive day working our way back toward Reykjavik than have a long way to go on our final morning in Iceland. We HIGHLY recommend doing this because it allows you to "preview" all that there is to see in the south, and jot down all the things you inevitably won't have seen online that you suddenly realize you can't miss. Expect to see barren lava-filled plains, about a dozen waterfalls, herds of sheep and horses both in and out of their pastures, ice-capped mountains, fields of lupine, and hills with dirt the color of caramel and grass & moss in every shade of green.
Technically speaking, we explored and photographed the glacier lagoon on day two because it was around 2 am. The glaciers slowly drift in different directions, we got to watch as seals popped up between them, and the midnight sun in Iceland is so low and casts this kind of mystical light over everything.
The opportunity to see glaciers just doesn't come around that often. Take it while you have it. Don't skip Jokulsarlon.
Overall, our day two plan was to stop. A lot. I suggest putting an entire day aside for this if you're exploring the south. Basically we drove in twenty minute increments to stop and see every kind of geographical anomaly, pet horses and some baby sheep, and check out waterfalls of every shape and size. Our big ticket list item of the second day was Fjorglijufur, a river canyon that you can walk around and through that, again, should not be skipped. It was a pretty popular spot to visit, but even still, it was awesome. We went to bed at around 2 am after skateboarding down the long stretches of abandoned highway. Another great day.
Our third day was a little bit rainier and a little bit colder than the ones before it. But that's Iceland. You don't go there for the weather. Our plan for this day was to check out Seljavallalaug, the oldest hot spring pool in Iceland and one of the most photographed pools on Instagram. My expectation was that it would be nestled on a mountainside and likely be a tourist hotspot. Both of those things were true, but there was more to the story.
The hike into Seljavallalaug is totally underrated. A river leads you into where four or five mountain peaks meet and if you walk beyond the popular pool you're led into a river canyon with multiple manmade rock hot tubs in the river itself. We didn't even go into the actual pool or photograph it. Instead, we spent hours exploring the surrounding area. It kind of felt like wandering through where the Stone Men from Game of Thrones lived, a little bit eerie but in a stunning way. Iceland displaces you a little because a lot of the places you'll hike through will feel like they haven't been touched or changed in hundreds of years (and they mostly haven't!). There should be a word out there for the way a place like that makes a "modern" person feel because it's pretty powerful...
On day four we were starting to feel the effects of sleeping at increasingly odd hours. We spent the day at Skogafoss waterfall (our favorite of the many we saw) then drove (again, with frequent stops) until we reached The Blue Lagoon, which would be our final activity in Iceland. We booked tickets for the second to last time slot of the day (10 pm), and were hesitantly hopeful it would be a good experience.
The Blue Lagoon gets some mixed reviews because it's such a tourist hotspot. I was prepared for crowds and the mayhem that comes with them, but all-in-all it was actually a great experience. The facilities are incredibly clean, the staff are attentive and efficient, and the lagoon is so big that, if you go during off-hours, there's plenty of space for people to spread out and not feel the strange discomfort that comes from knowing you're in bath water with about three hundred people you don't know. Don't skip it, but try to go during the first slot or the final one. Buy your tickets in advance, too!
We woke up, had some coffee, grabbed the Fly Bus to the airport (taxis are ludicrously expensive, so we suggest doing this), had a quick bite at Joe & The Juice once more, and flew home. We probably could've squeezed in one more morning activity, but Porter and I don't love to fly, so on fly days we try to keep things as low key as possible, get to the airport early, listen to some music, chill out. This turned out to be a good move because Porter got ticked for extra security checks at every. single, stop. The woman who checked us in for our flight asked him for alternate identification because apparently once bearded he is unrecognizable (I thought she was going overboard...).
We hope this was helpful and shoot us any questions you might have if you're in the middle of planning your own Iceland trip! Next time we go (I'm hoping there will be multiple next times) we definitely want to check out the north and west sections of the country, and maybe even hop a boat for a few days in the Faroe Islands.... We'll be sharing posts in the weeks ahead on packing essentials and more on why we think a camper is the way to go. Also, we're talking geothermal energy over on our Insta Stories tomorrow so tune in!
Anna Lisa & Porter
*Thank you to Mink Campers for sponsoring this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions remain our own.