Iceland [August 2016]
Our trip to Iceland was not planned - I’d only been in NYC for a week before we found out that we needed to leave the US within 10 days due to a visa issue. Cue: panic. We batted around the idea of going to London, Dublin or Rome until I came across relatively cheap flights to Reykjavik. It was only a 5+ hour flight away, it’d be a cool change to the oppressive heat that we were experiencing in NYC and well, it'd most definitely be an adventure (yah for unplanned adventures!).
Iceland is like nowhere I’ve ever been before. The air is ridiculously clean and the landscape ranges from craggy lava fields to lush fields butting up against gushing waterfalls and subglacial volcanoes. There are black sandy beaches with puffins flying overhead, hot mineral springs bubbling beside the highways, sulphuric steam rising from cracks in the earth as we wound our way through the mountains as well as the stunning sunsets at midnight.
Iceland's population is roughly 323,000 so it never felt busy - and the people? The people are uber friendly and enthusiastic to tell you about their favourite places whether it be for thermal springs, which volcanoes and waterfalls are the best to visit and where the best langoustine soup is found.
If you think living in NYC is expensive, then wait until you visit Iceland. There are a heap of How to visit Iceland without going bankrupt guides but we found by keeping our accommodation costs low by staying at the funky Oddsson Hostel overlooking the beautiful Faxa Bay helped immensely (watching the sunsets from the hostel bar was seriously spectacular).
Food and alcohol will set you back but we found some hidden gems that won't break the bank. There are some unusual dishes that are aimed at tourists (Minke whale sliders or horse carpaccio anyone? *gag*) but we found the locally sourced seafood and vegetables were hard to beat (let alone more ethical/sustainable). The trendy Kex Hostel has a great vibe with a large bar/restaurant/communal area and the food is fabulous. We love the Cafe Paris for afternoon beers and people watching in the sun. The super popular Laundromat Cafe has great breakfasts and a book collection (sorted by colour) that made my OCD heart soar.
Reykjavik is a great walking city and we spent most of our time wandering around the foreshore of Faxa Bay and the pretty surrounding streets as well as visiting the National Museum of Iceland and the stunning Harpa Concert Hall. There is a huge range of whale and puffin cruises to pick from that leave right from the city centre but we didn't get a chance to go on one this trip - next time!
For out of town adventures we spent an evening relaxing in the thermal waters at the Blue Lagoon (go, ignore the "tourist trap" comments - it was much better than we expected) and a full day driving around the South Coast where we got to visit the beautiful Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, Eyjafjallajökull volcano and Sólheimajökull glacier. If we ever get the chance to go back to Iceland we'll definitely hire a car to explore further afield - some of the out of the way places look magnificent.
Since coming back to NYC I've been telling anyone who'll listen that you absolutely must add Iceland to your wish list. Go on, you know you want to.