Our first international trip post-COVID was Iceland — a picturesque country located in the Arctic. For years, we’ve dreamed of seeing the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and hoped visiting Iceland in October would give us a good chance. So where exactly is Iceland? It’s north of North America, just east of Greenland and is about the size of Pennsylvania:
Globe Drifters arranged the 11 day tour and we traveled with 7 others from Florida, Boston and the West Coast. Our guide was a charismatic, funny, and knowledgeable Icelander with Viking heritage and our travel mates were fun, energetic and well-traveled.
Iceland is so beautiful, it can’t be summed up in a single blog so you will see a number of blogs flowing over the next few weeks where I try to encapsulate our amazing journey. All pictures where taken with my iPhone 13 Pro — I’m not sure my Nikon camera would have done any better.
Day 1 – The Snæfellsnes Peninsula
We arrived in Reykjavik a day early to let our bodies adjust to the new time zone and took advantage of the first free day to tour a section of the island not covered by our tour (the peninsula directly north of Reykjavik called Snæfellsnes).
Leaving Reykjavik, we noticed towering snow capped mountains and steaming geothermal waterways. Reykjavik means “bay of smoke” and was named by Ingolfur Arnason and his wife — the first Norse settlers of Iceland.
Driving north towards the peninsula, you notice coastal mountainous countryside with tall flowing waterfalls, yet void of trees. Initially Iceland had lots of trees but the Viking settlers took them down to build homes and to clear the land for sheep, cattle and horses to graze.
We took a quick stop at a beach and made our way to an Icelandic farm for a home-cooked meal of lamb, fresh fish and vegetables.
The farmer had Icelandic horses, sheep and a few crops. Icelandic horses were brought over by the Vikings and are not mixed with other breeds. They have thick hair, flowing manes and a unique gait that prevents bounciness to the rider. We stopped and petted some of the horses, they were tame and curious.
From here, we stopped by a quaint black church and saw graves dating back to the early 1800s.
Next stop was Arnarstapi, a village on the southern side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, once a fishing hub and now a place for travelers to enjoy a hike along the Icelandic coastline.
After a short hike, we drove to our first black sand beach at Djupalonssandur surrounded by lava rocks and dune lakes.
We ended our day in Gjaldskylda at a couple of waterfalls where a few scenes of Game of Thrones were filmed.
Day 2 – The Golden Circle
The next day, we met our Viking tour guide Stefano and our 7 travel mates, then hit the road for the Golden Circle. Stefano was dressed in combat fatigues with an imposing look and menacing laugh. In just a few days, his kind charismatic demeanor, stories of Icelandic life and history had the entire group captivated and by the end of the trip most of the women and some of the men were swooning over him.
Starting in Reykjavik, we drove along this route of the Golden Circle:
The Golden Circle is the most famous of all scenic routes and for many is the only section of Iceland they will see. The Globe Drifters tour had the Golden Circle as the starting point but we saw the entire island and experienced stunning landmarks and historically significant places.
Our first stop was Þingvellir National Park, where 2 continents adjoin. You can walk along the tectonic plates. This is also where Vikings established the world’s first democratic parliament more than 1,000 years ago, you can learn more about it from a museum located here.
Daring travelers can snorkel between the tectonic plates. The picture below is courtesy of Blue Car Rental.
Heading further east, we stopped by a geothermal valley called Haukadalur. If you’ve visited Yellowstone National Park in the USA, you will not be impressed as it is not quite “old faithful” but beautiful still.
I was not able to catch a good picture of the most active geyser, the picture below is from the Guide to Iceland website.
Our next stop was at the impressive Gullfoss waterfall.
We capped off day 2 at the Secret Lagoon, a geothermal bath with relaxing and healing hot water.
I’ll leave you with one final picture of the picturesque black church — keep an eye out for upcoming blogs that go deeper into our Iceland trip.
Interested in Seeing More?
See more of our Iceland blogs here.