Tips for Traveling to Iceland

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetI have been missing our Iceland adventures ever since we returned from our wonderful trip, and I got the opportunity to relive them in a super small way by writing about them for Darling Magazine. Hop on over to Darling’s blog to read the piece in full, and enjoy some of my favorite photos from our adventures! I’m also including some of the places, restaurants, and excursions we loved the most. We traveled with our dear friends, Rachel & Nick, and they are excellent planners, so they helped so much with finding amazing things to do on our trip.

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How to Get There

We took full advantage of Icelandair’s Stopover program. We purchased tickets and chose Paris as our final destination but we opted to participate in the stopover program, which offers travelers the opportunity to enjoy a layover in Iceland for up to seven days. How cool is that? We loved the airline – the amenities were great, the flight attendants were lovely, and the prices were absolutely amazing. It was incredible to travel to two countries for the price of one flight.

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Where to Stay

We loved our stay at the Icelandair Marina Hotel. Nestled right near the water, it offers really nice views and it’s located in the heart of Reykjavik; we found that our favorite restaurants and local spots were easily within walking distance. The decor at the Marina is spectacular, and the hotel is continually expanding the building and adding more amenities as tourism to Iceland continues to explode.

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Where to Eat & Drink

Reykjavik Roasters – we drank the best coffee here. Sometimes we would pop by multiple times in one day to caffeinate! The coffee shop makes their own unsweetened whipped cream, and we couldn’t resist adding a dollop to our lattes and cappuccinos.

Sjavargrillio (or Seafood Grill) – hands down, our favorite restaurant in Reykjavik. We would have eaten here for every meal if we had allowed ourselves to. The seafood, as you’d expect, was astounding, and we are still dreaming about a pork belly + langoustine appetizer that we savored here. I ordered a seafood pasta that was served with a creamy tomato sauce, and it was out of this world. The wine list was great, too.

Sandholt Bakery – we popped in here while we shopped and explored Reykjavik’s main street and we devoured the tastiest pastries. My favorite treat was a delicious, citrusy lemon tart, and we also ate yummy quiche and pretzel bread.

The Laundromat Café – yummy spot for brunch. We loved the coffee and fresh-pressed juice, too.

Kex Hostel – we came here on Friday night after spending the day at the Blue Lagoon (more on that below!) and we were in the mood for a cozy meal, which we definitely found here. The carrot soup I ordered totally hit the spot – it was luscious, and it was served with an unending selection of thick, soft bread and salted butter. We also noshed on homemade Parmesan crisps and burgers, and we drank really refreshing local beer. The decor at the Kex is just perfect – imagine if Anthropologie outfitted a hostel and you’ve got the right idea.

Snaps Bistro – really good French food and an awesome cocktail program. This was a great spot for the four of us to kick back, have long talks, and drink good wine.

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Things to Do

Spend an afternoon (or a whole day!) at the Blue Lagoon. This may seem like a touristy activity but I can promise you that, based on our experience, the experience did not feel touristy at all. There were Icelandic locals and experienced travelers alike enjoying the geothermal spa. If forced to choose, I think I would say that spending 6+ hours at the Blue Lagoon on the day that we arrived in Iceland was my very favorite activity. The warm water is so relaxing and refreshing and there’s a super fun swim-up bar where we refilled our glasses of Prosecco. There are tubs strewn around the lagoon full of mud packed with minerals, so we made plenty of masks and relished in how good they felt on our faces. We all opted to get hourlong in-water massages, which were insanely amazing – definitely an out-of-body experience, a splurge that I highly recommend.

Take a tour of the Golden Circle, and book a private jeep. Rachel booked this excursion for us and while it was pricy, it was worth every single penny. Our driver was an absolute gem who imparted so much wisdom about Iceland and the various sites we saw. We stood between two tectonic plates, frolicked atop a glacier, and off-roaded through rivers and volcanic rocks. We marveled at geysers and waterfalls and rainbows and the fact that one minute we were standing on ice but the next we were soaking in the sunshine. We stopped at a cafe and noshed on delicious grilled cheese paninis with tomato soup (bottomless bowls of it!) and drank the best hot chocolate. The whole day we were so acutely aware of how obvious it was that God really knew what He was doing when He created Iceland. If I had to pick between this adventure and our afternoon at the Blue Lagoon, I don’t think I could choose.

Spend time wandering around Reykjavik’s main street, popping into shops and cafes and just generally enjoying the slow-paced life that Iceland natives enjoy. There are so many cool Scandinavian-influenced home decor stores that we just loved, especially Hrim. We went up to the top of Hallgrimskirkja, the large Lutheran church that boasts beautiful views of the city. It was so fun to peer through the windows and look at the brightly colored rooftops.

We also did a Northern Lights tour, and while it was seriously amazing to see some of the gorgeous lights, I don’t know that I would do this again…probably because I like to go to bed early and the tour starts at 10:00 a.m.

IMG_2187 IMG_2262 IMG_2385 (1) IMG_2232 IMG_2183   IMG_2395 No pun intended, but this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg in terms of guides and things to do in Iceland. James and I are already plotting our inevitable return to this beautiful country – there is so much more exploring to do!