3 Days* in ICELAND
How about 3 Days* to track down Jon Snow beyond the Wall? HBO’s hit series ‘Game of Thrones’ brought Iceland’s otherworldly beauty onto many TV screens and can be partially credited for recent spikes in tourism.
While moody colors, rugged terrain and a barren vastness beg for solitude and introspection, the island’s quirky culture and hospitable locals invite social extrospection, creating a fascinating dichotomy for the wandering soul.
Day 1* in Iceland
Put a 4-wheel drive under your bum with snacks in the trunk and hit Iceland’s desolate roads. Keep an eye on the gas gauge as fueling stations are rare once you leave the vicinity of Reykjavik. First stops: the ferocious waterfall Gullfoss and the famous Geysers.
These spectacular sites are well covered in every guidebook so let’s move on to the next part of your journey. The drive through Iceland’s interior and towards the southeastern village of Vik will have you stopping every 5 minutes for snapshots; snow-covered volcanoes back dropping vast, green plateaus, solitary churches perched on hilltops and brawny horses leaning against the wind.
Depending on the amount of stops you make, you’ll probably arrive in Vik famished. Halldorskaffi in the middle of this whistle-stop feels like you accidentally stumbled into the Magnussons’ dining room, about to interrupt family dinner. While most items on the menu reflect the McDonaldization of our world, you’ll still be able to find local options. The trout was one of the best I’ve ever had. Freshly caught, prepared with just olive oil, salt/pepper and a few herbs and grilled to perfection.
A few local beers later with senses saturated from a full day, check into your wooden cottage at the Reynisfjara black beach. GARDAR’s cozy cabins look like habitable saunas and no Ambien could be more soothing than the scent of cedar wood and salt air against the sound of the ocean.
Day 2* in Iceland
Today’s recommended activity is one from my personal bucket list; horseback riding along an Icelandic black sand beach: Not far from Vik, Mid-Hvoll will take you out for a ride towards Dyrholaey, volcanic cliffs overlooking grey waters that are worth the extra little excursion. You can gallop through the sand, taking in the melancholic scenery, feeling the ocean spray in your face and filling your lungs with crisp air. I promise you the memory of this moment will stay with you for a long time!
The drive back to Reykjavik will bring you past two spectacular waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss (don’t miss the walk inside the cave that leads behind the waterfall) and Skogafoss where you might just run into Walter Mitty.
Leave the coast behind and aim for the Ion Hotel, a Scandi-chic concrete design in the Thingvellir National Park. Nestled between steaming rivers and moss-covered lava fields the hotel is worth a meal stop and possibly a splurge-worthy night’s stay. Its restaurant Silfra serves fresh Nordic cuisine, which deliciously sums up Iceland’s flavors on one plate. If you opt to make your way back to Reykjavik that night, it shouldn’t take you longer than an hour.
You might have outgrown the backpacking accommodations, but the Kex Hostel, located centrally in a former biscuit factory attracts more grown-up travelers that all try to snag the private rooms, so book early. Imbibe a local microbrew at the hostel’s bar and mingle with the eclectic mix of globetrotters before hitting your cot.
Day 3* in Iceland
Reykjavik’s main sights are almost all in walking distance including the funky architectural gems Hallgrimskirka – Iceland’s biggest church and Harpa – the newish concert hall. If you are here during a weekend browse through the Kolaportid flea market and the adjacent indoor food market. I dare you to try Hákarl (fermented shark) or pickled lamb testicles and report back to us. And if you haven’t been on a whale watching tour before you should probably take this opportunity to check it off.
While Reykjavik could easily delight you for the rest of the day, you shouldn’t miss the obligatory dip in the Blue Lagoon. The prices are a little inflated but a few relaxing hours in the topaz pools are worth it. Cake on the mud, float around with a drink in hand, etc.
Squeaky clean and smooth you can squeeze in one last scenic drive and loop your way around the southwestern tip of the island. Located nearby and off the 425 near the Keykjanes Lighthouse are a few isolated geothermal springs. With the sun low on the horizon and the golden beams breaking through the rising steam this is a sight worth stopping for.
Round out your visit at the world-class Dill restaurant, which may impress you with its culinary creations rather than with its décor, reminiscent of the communal hall in a middle-class retirement home. But don’t be fooled by the retro furnishings; the 3, 5 or 7 course menus are highly imaginative examples of the New Nordic Kitchen and just one of many reasons to come back to Iceland for more.
An ideal time to visit Iceland is from mid spring to mid fall, especially if you are on a tight schedule. 20 hours of daylight allow for long days of exploring.
If the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) are on your list, consider visiting between September and mid-April.
- Printed Maps, phone reception can be spotty to none
- Warm, waterproof layers, even during the summer months
- A flashlight
- AmabAdamA - Hossa Hossa (Icelandic Reggae)
- Sisy Ey (electronic)
- Sigur Ros