In December 2014, my good friend Kayla approached me and asked: "Hey, why don't we go to Iceland next month?"
Now, my first thought was "Ice-land? She wants to take me to a frozen theme park!?” (That’s as much as I knew about the place other than it must have been a frozen theme park)
"Uh... okay I guess!"
Little did I know we’d be embarking on a journey to a country with such a rich culture, untouched landscapes, and unique characteristics. With the flights booked and bags packed, the land of ice and fire was awaiting our arrival.
This post is not sponsored in any way. All opinions and images are the property of This is me, Merisa Lee! unless otherwise cited.
Reykjavík is Iceland’s booming capital with an array of shops, restaurants, museums, galleries and street art so unconventional - you'll wonder if you fell through the rabbit hole. There's tons to do in Iceland's capital; you won't find yourself bored here!
As our hotel was conveniently located in the city centre, it was easy to get up and explore downtown on foot. My favourite part of walking through the city? The colours! Apart from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and St. John's, Newfoundland, Reykjavík has got to be in the running for the world's most colourful cities.
No, I didn't just sneeze. Yes, that is actually the name of this church.
Acting as a giant pillar overlooking the cityscape, Hallgrímskirkja is a sight to behold. Standing 74.5 metres tall, this church can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. And quite honestly, it kind of looks like a spaceship.
The church even has an elevator that brings you to the top where you can get stunning views of the city.
THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
The Golden Circle is a popular 300-kilometre route that many tourists experience during their trip to Iceland. Along the route includes several sightseeing destinations including massive waterfalls, powerful geysers, and untouched natural parks. Our goal was to visit as many stops along the route as we could, as it is quite possible to visit most of them in a day. However, today I'm going to showcase 3 of the most popular destinations we visited along Iceland's Golden Circle route.
1. Þingvellir National Park
The first stop on our Golden Circle tour was to Þingvellir National Park. This place is pretty neat - it's a UNESCO World Heritage site and has various attractions to suit every traveler including walking trails, diving, fishing, and horseback riding.
As Kayla and I were trying to tackle our Golden Circle tour in a day, we took a brief couple of hours to explore the walking trails that Þingvellir had to offer.
2. Geysir Geothermal Area
The next stop in our Golden Circle tour was to the Haukadalur Valley, in which dwells the Geysir geothermal area. This place will make you realize you're not the only one with hot gas.
In the mood to buy a real wool coat made from Icelandic sheep that probably costs about $1000? No problem, cause the Geysir gift shop has got the coat for you.
Okay, okay, they don't just have sheep coats. They've also got cute ceramics and Icelandic knick-knacks too.
The last stop in our Golden Circle tour was at the Gullfoss waterfall, which is located in the Southwest of Iceland. This astounding waterfall doesn't fail to impress with its massive size and depth.
Overall, the Golden Circle tour is a great way to see Iceland's many different natural attractions and landscapes.
One thing to note - if you want to be able to customize your day around the Golden Circle, I suggest renting your own vehicle so that you can sightsee at your own pace.
Reykjavík has several car rental agencies that have very affordable rates, so consider renting your own vehicle if touring the Golden Circle or other areas of Iceland to tailor your overall experience.
You can check out some car rentals here.
SELJALANDSFOSS & SKÓGAFOSS
Another amazing day trip we took was to southern Iceland along Route 1 (A.K.A, the Ring Road). Gullfoss, as previously mentioned, isn't the only amazing waterfall we saw during our adventures.
Anyone watch Justin Bieber's music video "I'll Show You"? It features the beautiful Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall has a drop of 60 metres, and as it's right beside the highway - it's worth the pit stop.
Only 25 more minutes down the road will you find the breathtaking Skógafoss. Also 60 metres high, this waterfall is just as powerful as it is beautiful.
If you're up for it, you can even hike up to the top of the fall for a striking view.
What's a girl gotta do to get a burger? And by burger, I mean a fish burger. Behold, Reykjavík Fish. Located in Reykjavík's downtown, this restaurant has got to be THE BEST spot in the city for your seafood cravings. Kayla and I visited Reykjavík Fish one late evening after a long day of adventuring, and let me tell ya - it went down good.
While my fish burger was definitely massive, Kayla literally got a BUCKET of fish & chips!
You can visit Reykjavík Fish here.
Missing your Timbit fix while vacationing in Iceland? Fear not, because kleina is in the house - or should I say - in the bakery. It's rare that you will visit a bakery in Iceland that doesn't have a freshly made batch of kleina available for your pastry needs. If you like Tim Horton's plain Timbit, you'll surely enjoy a delectable kleina (it's better than a Timbit, though).
With its Viking heritage, rugged landscapes and unique features, Iceland is a trip of a lifetime. If it seems like a whole other world, it's because it is in many ways. It's a place where the thrill-seeker and laid back traveler alike can find themselves satisfied due to the variety of activities this country has to offer. Kayla and I were surely not disappointed!
I strongly encourage you to learn more, and to plan your unforgettable trip to Iceland!
P.S. - Did I mentioned they have the cutest ponies?