Iceland Road Trip: The South Shore

The South Shore of Iceland in one neat little day-long (ok, maybe 18 hours) Iceland road trip. If you have a bit more time and can spend a few days in Iceland, then this is the route for you! You’ll cover waterfalls, glaciers, glacial lagoons, national parks, black beaches, lava fields and much more on this unforgettable route.

WHY DRIVE THE South Shore YOURSELF?

After figuring out that we didn’t want to do an organized coach tour (see also: Road Trip of the Golden Circle), we opted to wake up at the crack of dawn and drive ourselves out to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, at which we had a 1pm reservation for a Zodiac boat tour.  

We also wanted the freedom to be able to stop wherever we liked if something looked interesting. From everything we’ve read, the south shore of Iceland has so much to offer, it’d be crazy to just drive right by it all.

Pro-Tip: Make sure you have a chip-enabled credit card with pin with you if you’re on an Iceland road trip – you’ll need it to buy gas at gas stations along the way.

HITTING THE ROAD

We set out from Reykjavik after a quick stop for breakfast and coffee at Sandholt Bakery in Reykjavik’s city center (more on that later – about $14 US). We stocked up on snacks (fresh-baked soft pretzels from the bakery and bottled waters) and made our way east, out of the city.  Our plan was to just go to the glacier lagoon and then spend the rest of the day sightseeing on the way back at our leisure. It worked out really well.

The weather was a little iffy – drizzling, light rain, then sunshine, some wind, and basically everything but snow. So, be prepared for a few different seasons if you’re visiting in the summer! Then it was onward to our first stop: the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon! Continue reading

Iceland Road Trip: The Golden Circle

Golden Circle Road Trip

The Golden Circle basically covers the highlights of Iceland in one neat little day-long road trip. If you’re pressed for time and can only spend a day or two in Iceland, then this is the route for you! You’ll cover waterfalls, geysers, national parks and much more in a very short period driving the Golden Circle.

Firstly, I’d like to give a huge shout-out to Auður at IHeartReykjavik for the inspiration for this Golden Circle road trip. We used her map and suggested stops to get us from Reykjavik to Gulfoss and back, and it was super handy!

Why drive The Golden Circle yourself?

Rather than take a guided coach tour, we opted to rent our own car when in Iceland so that we could do the sights our own way – freedom to explore and choice far outweighed our need to be chauffeured around. Plus, being in our 30’s we didn’t want to be crammed into a coach bus with a bunch of old people. No offense to old people, but overhearing conversations about retirement plans, medication and grandchildren wasn’t on our list of experiences to be had.

Golden Circle road trip

Road trip! On our way out of Reykjavik, heading east…

It was summer when we went so we did not need to worry about snow on the roads. Although I was a bit nervous about renting a car abroad, I was assured by friends that driving is easy and safe, so long as the weather cooperates. They were right – it was really, really easy to drive there and there’s nearly zero traffic.

Hitting the Road

We set out from Reykjavik after picking up our rental car at around 730am, which included Continue reading

Top 15 Packing Tips for an Iceland Summer

Top 15 Packing Tips for an Iceland SummerAn Iceland summer may have the sun, beach and waves, but what it doesn’t have is any heat that is not in a geothermal pool. It’s COLD, y’all. Although it’s in the northern hemisphere and it’s technically the summertime, temperatures in Reykjavik and beyond don’t normally rise above 70 degrees Fahrenheit/21 degrees Celsius. As I write this post, it’s currently 55 degrees Fahrenheit in Reykavik, and a boiling 93 degrees in New York City. I think I’ve made my point.

Iceland is also known for being a pretty outdoorsy place to visit, so balancing sturdy activewear with city threads for a night out can be a challenge.  Hopefully these tips will help you figure out what to pack for an Iceland summer and what to leave at home.

Without further ado, here are my:

Top 15 Packing Tips for An Iceland Summer

1. Hiking Shoes

I had read up before we left on our trip about what sorts of shoes I should bring and thought to myself, “I don’t own any hiking shoes, why would I buy any now? Just for a vacation? I don’t even like hiking.”  Let’s just say I was glad I took a last-minute trip to DSW to pick up some Merrell shoes, because I wore them every single day of our trip. I got the Siren Sport 2′s, but not in waterproof. In hindsight, I should have gotten the waterproof ones, as they’re only $20 more.

Iceland Summer Packing Tips

Merrell’s Siren Sport 2 Waterproof hiking shoe

I still don’t like hiking (or, as I like to call it, “walking uphill in dirt”), but we sure did a lot of it on our trip. The amazing views usually made it all pay off in the end. Still, I’m so glad I was wearing those shoes. Especially when I took a tumble down the Kerid crater. True story.

2. Bathing Suit

Icelanders love a good hot swim, no matter the weather outside. No trip to Iceland is complete without a dip in one of Reykjavik’s hot pots or a trip to the super-touristy-yet-bucket-list-item Blue Lagoon. Or, you can find a fabled swimming hole described in an Icelandic saga, instead, like on our Snaefellsnes tour.  Don’t be caught without your bikini or trunks and be forced to miss out on a truly Icelandic experience!

3. Sunscreen

Just because it’s cold or cloudy outside doesn’t mean that you won’t get a wicked sunburn. Make sure you slather up your face and other exposed body parts during the daytime (remember, the sun during an Iceland summer is out nearly 24 hours a day) to avoid looking like a cooked lobster come dinnertime!

UNSS030-web

I highly recommend one of the Rodan + Fields options. (full disclosure – I’m an R+F consultant, and clicking on the link will bring you to my R+F online store, but I 100% recommend the products because I use them myself – including on our trip to Iceland!). For my face I love the Unblemish step 4 with 20 SPF and for body the Essentials 30 SPF full spectrum sunscreen does the trick.

4. Sunglasses

Did you know that if you have light-colored eyes, it’s even more important for you to wear eye protection from the sun? These baby blues rarely see the summer without a nice dark lens between them and the outside world. Most of the amazing experiences Iceland has to offer include being outdoors. Remember, the sun shines nearly 24 hours a day during an Icelandic summer (see above). Bring some sunglasses to avoid paying crazy prices once you land in Reykjavik (clothing and other items are much more expensive there than in the U.S.). The glare off of the glaciers in the sun can be blinding – snow blindness is a thing. Sunglasses usually help a photo op, too, so you’re not squinting in every photo!

Top 15 Iceland Summer Packing Tips

These Ted Baker Petrus Wayfarer sunglasses are one of my faves.

5. Water-resistant windbreaker with a hood

You’ll be so glad that you brought a water-resistant or waterproof hooded jacket if you get up close and personal with a waterfall (which are like churches in a European city – everywhere!).  The weather can also change fairly quickly or be a little rainy – and sometimes windy. Keeping your hands free and your body dry, one of these babies will help you really enjoy your beautiful surroundings without being uncomfortable or getting sick later.

Iceland Summer Packing Tips

The North Face’s Venture Jacket

I bought a cheap number from Target (Ava & Viv), and hubs got a great lightweight shell from The North Face that rolls up into a little ball. Unfortunately, The North Face’s XL women’s jackets are a little snug on me (yes, I’ll actually admit that), so I couldn’t join him in the The North Face fun. But his looks pretty sweet, too.

6. Water-resistant pants/Trousers

Iceland Summer Packing Tips

The North Face’s Aphrodite pants

Being sprayed by waterfalls and riding around a glacier lagoon in a Zodiac boat means that you won’t want to wear jeans. Plus, pants with some stretch but water resistance are good for hiking around, being outdoors in the rain and keeping your rental car somewhat dry. Quick-drying pantalones are essential. I picked up some North Face Aphrodite pants in black Macy’s before leaving for the trip (same shopping trip as DSW) and I am so glad I had them. The bonus is that they have pockets and everything.

7. Wicking long-sleeved shirts for layering

Cooler mornings and evenings in the Iceland summer mean you’ll want a little something extra to layer between your tshirt and your windbreaker. A moisture-wicking long-sleeved top can be just the ticket. And, with near-24-hours’ daylight, you can spend 18 hours in a day in the Iceland summer seeing the sights, so you WILL be out and about at a waterfall at 9pm (if you’re up to it!). I love my long-sleeved wicking tops from Fabletics for this.

8. Wicking t-shirts or tank tops for layering

My number #1 favorite item I brought with me was a moisture-wicking, loose-fitting t-shirt. The material is cool in the heat and warm enough in the cooler morning, and if you work up a sweat hiking up to Svartifoss, you won’t be gross all day long. Layering is key in a climate like this!  The Mosa Tank from Fabletics is moisture-wicking and has a vent in the back top.

Mosa Tank from Fabletics

The Mosa Tank

9. Jeans

A pair or two of jeans is great for trekking around Reykjavik in, and you can dress them up a bit to go to dinner at Kol, Dill, or any other cool restaurants in town.

10. Nice tops

Again, for dinners in town it’s a good idea to have something resembling fashion with you. Plus it’s a nice balance after wearing athleisurewear all day to be able to dress up a bit. Pack one or two tops that you can wear out to dinner and wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in by a friend. And let’s face it, with Iceland becoming such a popular destination, the odds are becoming greater that you actually WILL see someone you know while there.

11. Camera

If you go to Iceland without a camera, you’re just an idiot. One of the most beautiful countries of the world deserves to be photographed. My iPhone 5 took some decent ones, and I had purchased a Sony DSC-QX10 to turn my phone into a better camera. Hubs used our Canon DSLR. I really liked the DSC-QX10 but I’m not sure that it takes better photos than my iPhone 6, now. However, as an attachable lens, it was great to travel with as it was fairly small and set up easily.  I got lucky with mine as it was an open-box item, so I got it for about $130 US.

Iceland Summer Packing Tips

The Sony camera I bought for our trip, attaches to my iPhone

The plus side is that the DSC-QX10 has its own WiFi signal and works remotely. So, I was able to use the Sony PlayMemories app as a viewfinder on my phone and set up the lens somewhere else, which is great for selfies, landscape shots, and silly jumping photos.

12. Flats

Reykjavik is hilly in some areas and after a full day of hiking, I don’t think most women want to put on high heels. Reykjavik is also a very walkable city, and you’ll likely be able to walk from your hotel or AirBnB anywhere. Throw a pair of flats in your luggage for a night out, even though a night in the Iceland summer looks like the day! I live in my Crocs Rio flats.

Icelandic summer packing tips

The Rio flat from Crocs in black/platinum.

13. Comfortable socks

Make sure you have dry-fit or other comfortable socks to wear under your hiking shoes that will stay relatively dry to prevent blisters. You may walk much more than you do at home, and foot pain is the worst when traveling!

14. Ziploc bags

Iceland Summer Packing Tips

The duct tape of traveling?

In case you missed the theme here, Iceland can get pretty wet. Having a Ziploc baggie to put your phone in when you’re hiking isn’t a bad idea, and you can even use your touchscreen through the bag, so it will be protected from rain, spray, water and sand. Gallon-size Ziploc bags are great for temporarily storing wet bathing suits after a swim and transporting pastries from Sandholt bakery as roadtrip snacks. They take up almost no room in your suitcase and you’ll be prepared! I feel like Ziploc bags are the duct tape of travelers. Don’t you think?

15. Beach towel

Hitting up the hotpots, swimming holes or Blue Lagoon is great but having a beach towel with you or to sit on in your rental car afterwards will come in very handy. You can also use it as a blanket to sit on if you’re hiking and want to stop to relax for a while. Take it to the beaches in Vik and sit for a few hours to watch the waves hit the shore and think about how lucky you are to be enjoying an Iceland summer!

*Note: This is not a sponsored post. I truly believe in the products that I’ve recommended here, and with the exception of the Rodan + Fields products, I receive no benefit from recommending the items noted, and I only receive a benefit from R+F if you click on the link and purchase from my personal retail site. Thank you!

Have I missed a must-bring? Let me know by leaving a comment! 

Snaefellsnes Peninsula with GoEcco Tours

Snaefellsnes, Iceland

The Snaefellsnes (pronounced like: sn-EYE fells ness) peninsula of Iceland is arguably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Mars-like red landscapes, lush green foothills, rushing streams and rivers, little waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, basalt cliffs jutting out like crystals from the sea; it has so much natural beauty.  We checked it out ourselves with GoEcco Tours on a sunny June day last year.

Our tour guide, Yoe, scooped us up bright and early (although a little late) in a Toyota Highlander and our small group consisted of the three of us (me, husband and our friend) and three travelers from Singapore, including a radio DJ. The girls were nice and we all were into the same things, which was great.  They were late because one of the Land Rovers that we were supposed to take had malfunctioned, so they had to arrange for and use a replacement vehicle. We were a little disappointed because I think the Highlander was a bit smaller than what the other vehicle would have been, and we are all over 5’8″tall.

IMG_2236

Caught between taking photos at our first stop.

That being said, Yoe was a great guide. He cracked jokes along the way to the first stop and let us use our Spotify (thanks, unlimited international data plan!) to play music in the car. We (okay, I) asked a ton of questions, ranging from the Icelandic culture to what people do for fun, to what we were going to see that day and other things he’d recommend for us to see while in the country. We got a ton of great information from him that we used later in our trip.

Capri Sun in Iceland

I love roaming around shops in other countries – they even had Capri Sun!

After a brief stop for some coffee and to load up on road snacks, we were off to our first real stop.

Stop #1: Postcard-Perfect Fishing

Snafellsnes, Iceland

No filter.

Our first stop was a secret stream where flyfishing enthusiasts can come and pay a hefty fee to be able to fish for salmon in its rushing waters.  It was virtually Continue reading

Friðheimar: An Icelandic Greenhouse Lunch

An Icelandic Greenhouse Lunch

During our week in Iceland last summer, we stopped off at Friðheimar for an Icelandic greenhouse lunch after driving the Golden Circle for the better part of a morning and early afternoon. Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurantI had read about it in several other blogs and thought it sounded awesome – who doesn’t want to have lunch in a working greenhouse in the middle of Iceland? Exactly.

A little hard to find and off the beaten path, we drove the rental car only partway down the road and ended up in a little parking lot way too far from the door but close to the horses, so we piled in again and drove the dirt road up to the rather large greenhouse complex at the end, where we found Fridheimar, or Friðheimar, if you can make your keyboard do that weird Icelandic “d” thing.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

A working greenhouse, the farmers here grow amazing tomatoes year-round, taking advantage of the farming practice where you can regulate temperature year-round, which is especially important for a place like Iceland, with its long frosts and colder-than-a-witches’-teet winters. Happy bees buzzed around the tall vines as they were misted.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

PRO-TIP #1: Don’t Come Here If You Don’t Like Tomatoes.

Being that you’re in an Icelandic greenhouse that grows mostly tomatoes, it comes as no surprise, then, that the menu consists of tomato soup. Fresh tomato soup.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Fresh tomato soup!

Perhaps the freshest tomato soup I’ve ever had.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Don’t come here if you’re on the Atkins diet…and don’t want to suffer.

And a table of bread that would make even the biggest carb-lover’s heart skip a beat in delight. Asiago-crusted. Focaccia. Plain. Sourdough. In unlimited quantities.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

We might have overdone it on the bread.

The soup was also unlimited.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Butter, sour cream, cucumber

There was fresh cucumber salsa, sour cream, and butter to accompany the main attraction, brought to the table by kind servers.

To drink, there are several types of Iceland’s craft beer – Einstök – on offer. This was before I had ever seen Einstök in the U.S. – but it’s now pretty prevalent, at least in the New York City area in local beer aisles.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Icelandic craft beer

The white ale went nicely with the tomato soup. It made things feel a little bit more summery, considering it was in the 40’s -50’s Fahrenheit outside. Which was easy to forget when we were snug and warm inside the greenhouse!

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

More Icelandic craft beer

The beers were in addition to wine and several options for Bloody Marys and other Bloody Mary-esque cocktails.  The carafes of water at each table also had little cherry tomatoes in the bottom.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

The bar.

Pro-Tip #2: Come for Lunch – They are only open from noon to 4pm.

We really loved the lunch here at Fridheimar. Since the soup and bread are unlimited and you serve yourself, you’re able to eat as much or as little as you want but it’s not too heavy. It’s also not fried, which is a nice plus.

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

We didn’t get dessert, but they all also feature tomatoes – cheesecake with tomato chutney, green tomato and apple pie, etc. On your way out of the greenhouse restaurant, you can stop in the little shop and purchase some of the tomato products that the greenhouse makes, to take home with you. We probably should have!

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

How to get to Friðheimar – an Icelandic Greenhouse Restaurant:

Friðheimar - Icelandic greenhouse restaurant

Friðheimar
Bláskógabyggð
IS-801
Selfoss, Iceland
Phone: +354 486-8894
Friðheimar is best visited if you’re driving yourself around the Golden Circle and plan to stop at Kerið crater or Faxi waterfall. We visited after seeing Gulfoss, stopping quickly at the Faxi waterfall, and before we headed to hike down the Kerið crater.  It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re outside of Reykjavik and looking for an alternative lunch spot – eating in an Icelandic greenhouse!

Have you been to Friðheimar? Tell me what you thought about it in the comments? Are you thinking about going? Ask me anything in the comments, too!

Reykjavik Hot Dogs: Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

Hot dogs in Reykjavik, Iceland

Before even going to Reykjavik, we knew that we’d definitely be eating hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. These iconic Icelandic-style frankfurters have been featured in No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, Forbes magazine and a slew of other travel shows, guides and reviews. As a self-styled hot dog connoisseur (they’re one of my favorite food groups – yes, one can simultaneously love hot dogs and truffles), I just had to see for myself if these Reykjavik hot dogs were as good as their reputation indicated.

The place whose name,

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

translates to “The best hot dogs in town” did not disappoint. Hailing from a city where hot dogs are taken seriously (travelers to NYC always say how they need to get a hot dog from a cart on a street corner – we affectionately call them “dirty water dogs”), I have to say: dang, these Reykjavik hot dogs are legit. Continue reading