10 Best Travel Moments in Iceland

August 24, 2015
Looking back on my two week trip to Iceland with Rachael, there were so many incredible moments. I decided to pick my top ten and share them here.  It was hard to choose, believe me! Iceland is one of the most stunning places that I have ever visited in terms of natural beauty. In some ways, it reminded me of New Zealand's South Island. Without further ado, here is my list!

1)  Soaking in the natural hot springs at the Secret Lagoon. Of course you have probably heard of the Blue Lagoon, which is one of the top attractions in Iceland. While we did go to the Blue Lagoon and liked it, both Rachael and I much preferred the Secret Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is touristy, expensive, and crowded while the Secret Lagoon is smaller and in my opinion, more relaxing. The Secret Lagoon is located in Fludir which is not far from stops on The Golden Circle tour. It was a convenient place to go for us since we had just spent the day taking in the sights on this popular day trip. At the Secret Lagoon, we were enjoying ourselves so much that we lost track of time. Before we knew it, there was no one left but our group and a few other stray couples. It was a great way to get in some hydrotherapy and unwind!

2) Making friends with Icelandic horses. On our road trip, we decided to stop and pet some of the horses we saw in passing, and Rachael and I also spent a half-day going horseback riding through the lava fields. The company we went through is called Ishestar, and it's easy to go while staying in Reykjavik. We were considered beginners and had no problems, and everyone was divided into one of two groups so that the advanced riders could go faster.

Icelandic horses are known to be rather friendly and are exceptional because they know other gaits besides the traditional ones like walk, trot, canter/gallop. This is a very pure breed because no other horses are brought into Iceland. Once Icelandic horses are exported, they are not allowed to ever come back into the country in order to prevent diseases. Icelandic horses are generally considered to be small and sturdy, but we were warned by our Icelandic guides to never confuse them for ponies! We were also told that Icelandic horses are special because a rider's body can easily move with the horse, which allows for a smoother ride.

3) Exploring Reykjavik. Besides the first three nights of our trip, we stayed in Reykjavik the whole time. Although we went on many daily excursions, we still took the time to explore this quirky city. While in Reykjavik, we spent a night out on the town, ate at plenty of tasty restaurants like Le Bistro and Laundromat Cafe for brunch, tried several coffeehouses, went shopping for some souvenirs, toured Harpa Concert Hall, went to the top of Hallgrimskirkja (aka "The Big Church") for some stellar views of the city, explored the harbor, went to Nautholsvik geothermal beach, and took a free walking tour of the city. We did leave the city frequently, but I liked having Reykjavik as our "home base."

4) Admiring waterfalls. Don't tell TLC, but a big portion of our trip was spent chasing waterfalls. Even though we made it a point to see some of the top waterfalls in Iceland, many of the ones we saw just happened to be ones we passed by randomly on our road trip! My personal favorite is the majestic Hraunfossar, which translates to Lava Waterfall.

Beautiful waterfalls like the one pictured below are common sights in the southern part of Iceland.

Other waterfalls we visited included: Oxararfoss in Pingvellir National Park, Gullfoss, Skogafoss, Svartifoss, Barnafoss, and Bjarnarfoss, to name a few more. Seeing these waterfalls was one of my travel experiences of all time--maybe it's because my middle name is Lynne, which means waterfall. :)

5) Learning about Icelandic culture. Our road trip was great, but I learned the most from my Reykjavik Excursions guide when I went to Snaefellsness Peninsula and to Langjokull Glacier, which I hope to write more detailed posts on later. Lolly from the free walking tour in Reykjavik also taught me about traditional Icelandic food (sheep testicles fermented in milk, anyone?), history, and politics. Kaelene had some insight about Iceland since she has lived in Iceland for more than 22 months now. For example, did you know that gender equality is a big deal in Iceland? Kaelene informed us that in primary schools, boys are encouraged to talk about their feelings and play with typical "girl" toys like dolls while girls are given "boy" toys.

One of the stops on our Free Walking Tour: The Parliament Building where the Prime Minister resides

6) Going inside a volcano- We went on the Inside the Volcano tour and got to go down into the magma chamber of Thrihnukagigur, a volcano that last erupted 4,000 years ago. While visiting other places, you might get to hike up a volcano or go into one of the craters, but going this deep into a volcano can only be done at Thrihnukagigur. We took a specially designed, open air elevator down 120 meters and got to stay and explore the magma chamber for about 35 minutes. The colors were just incredible!

7) Taking in the scenery at Gjain. I have to thank Kaelene for blogging about this lush valley because otherwise we would have missed it. It is not well known, but well worth the trip. Actually, part of the reason why Gjain is so remarkable is because there aren't many tourists there. When we were hiking around, a group was just leaving and we were the only ones there!! That meant we got private views of waterfalls and the gorgeous surroundings.  Four out of four of us said that Gjain was one of our favorite stops in Iceland.

8) Heading out to Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon. I have never seen anything quite like these icebergs that have broken off from a larger glacier. Our friend that went with us compared them to mint chocolate chip ice cream. If you look closely at this wonderful setting, you might even be able to catch a glimpse of a seal or two. 

9) Walking on the black sand beach at Vik at sunset. After a long day, our group headed to the picturesque town of Vik to wind down for the evening. We were tired from our trip, but had a hearty meal and then we meandered down to the beach for an evening stroll on the beach, which was just what we needed. Not only was the sky beautiful, but the basalt columns added to this amazing setting. 

10) Touring Snaefellsnes Peninsula- Known as a miniature version of the whole country, Snaefellsness did not disappoint! We visited a volcanic crater as well as the black sand beach with wreckage from the ship Epine-Grimbsy. Additionally, we admired waterfalls and the small villages along the way. The best part was taking a hike along rugged coastline and seeing the lava cliffs between Arnarstapi and Hellnar. 

Is there anything on this list that you would like to do? Have you ever been to Iceland? If you have, what would be on your list?
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