The hooker went to Iceland!

Oh, Iceland. I’ve been back for weeks now and it’s still on my mind. It’s quite seriously the single most stunning place I’ve ever visited in my life. And it wasn’t the classic “postcard photo” spots that got me, it was the quietude of the less-mentioned areas that really struck me. Watching the sun set at a quiet lake behind my hotel in Egilsstaðir. Circling around Lake Mývatn and seeing the landscape transform from barren lava formations into a stunningly clear blue waters. Or driving through what felt like an arctic tundra on the way to Seyðisfjörður. It seriously felt like I was on another planet, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

In my usual tradition, if I had to sum up my trip to Iceland in 4 photos, it’d be these. But there’s so, so much more.

I did a full road trip around the island in 11 days and I feel like I still could’ve done more. Iceland was absolutely stunning everywhere we went.

  • The Blue Lagoon: Almost everyone who goes to Iceland ends up at the Blue Lagoon. Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, it’s expensive. But dammit, I felt like skipping out on the Blue Lagoon was like landing in Orlando and making the active decision not to visit Disney World. I purposely planned my trip where the Blue Lagoon would the FIRST place we visited right off the plane, and it paid off 100%. I booked for the earliest time slot possible right at opening time and we basically had the place entirely to ourselves until the tour buses started rolling in. It was absolutely lovely and it was a fantastic way to relax after I’d spent almost an entire day on planes and in airports. Deciding to go as the first stop when we landed vs. the last stop on the way back to the airport was also a strategic move because I felt like if I visited the “big touristy” one first, then I wouldn’t set myself up for disappointment when I visited the other hot springs around the country compared to if I had done things the other way around.

  • Waterfalls galore! There’s seriously waterfalls EVERYWHERE. I’m much more of a “mountains and waterfalls” vs. a “palm trees and beaches” kind of person, so Iceland quickly became a happy place for me. You’ve got your classic postcard waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, and Svartifoss:
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  • But then there’s the other waterfalls that people don’t mention as much that are just as stunning. Ones that were hidden in caves, ones with brilliant red stone striations, or ones that would seemingly come out of nowhere on the side of the road:

    I can’t stress enough just how stunning it was out there. There’d be waterfalls randomly on the road with houses in front of them, and all I could think was “THIS is your backyard? THIS is what you wake up to every day?”


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  • The hot springs: I love me some hot springs. Iceland is a volcanic island so there’s plenty of heat to produce some naturally warm waters! It always felt so satisfying after a long day of hiking to dip into some spring waters and unwind a bit. My absolute favorite was Mývatn Nature Baths. It’s about half the price of the Blue Lagoon, and while they don’t include fancy extras like a drink, face mask, or towel service in the price, the biggest winning factor is that you get gorgeous mountain views from the waters. I went on a clear day and got to watch the sun set over the mountains and it’s still one of my favorite moments from the entire trip.

  • Speaking of hot springs, Seljavallalaug was a fun visit. It’s Iceland’s oldest public swimming pool (EDIT: not THE oldest, but one of the oldest!), and finding it is a fun venture in itself. You hike about 15 minutes through an isolated valley and BOOM. Random heated pool in the middle of the mountains. Who decided to build this here? Why? Either way I wasn’t complaining, and it seemed too unique for me to skip out on taking a quick dip. The things that people DON’T mention as much about it are that 1) the water isn’t THAT warm, and 2) the pool’s only drained and cleaned twice a year, so there’s a nice slimy layer of algae at the bottom. I was like “Oh yeah I’ve done my research, I got this!” I thought I was mentally prepared for these two things. Me slipping around on the algae told me I was not. It’s still something very cool to see, even if you decide to just dip your feet in instead of wading through the greenery at the bottom!

  • Ice, ice, baby: The general joke is that Iceland has a lot of green and Greenland has a lot of ice. That being said, Iceland still has its fair share of the cold stuff too. That’s part of what I loved about Iceland so much, it’s that the landscape can change SO dramatically from one short drive to the next. I saw glaciers, iceberg lagoons, and crystal clear ice “diamonds” on black sand beaches.

  • Speaking of black sand beaches: I LOVED Reynisfjara beach. I think I’ve got a new love affair with basalt columns. <3
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  • Seyðisfjörður: Getting to Seyðisfjörður is an adventure in itself. It looks like just a nice 30 minute drive from Egilsstaðir. Easy enough. What Google maps doesn’t tell you is that you have to drive through a TERRIFYING mountain pass – it was foggy so we had almost zero visibility, and on top of that there was gleaming white ice surrounding us to throw off any sense of distance or perception around us. It was terrifying, beautiful, and absolutely surreal. It felt like we had somehow dropped onto an undiscovered frozen planet.
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    Once you got past that though, you’re greeted by a tiny little town with a population of only 700 people. My friends and I joked that you’d move here if you didn’t want anyone to visit you, ever.
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    It also happens to be adorable and full of quirky art.

  • When we showed up everything was closed – not sure if it was some sort of holiday or if they just decided to take a break, but it was still absolutely lovely to explore this great little off the beaten path gem, even if we thought we were going to die getting there and back.

  • The food: People who say Iceland has shitty food are wrong. There’s plenty of good food in Iceland, BUT you’ll have to be prepared to pay for it. Dining out is expensive in Iceland, and not just for tourists, but for everyone because it’s a small island where everything needs to be imported. If you’re on a tight budget then you’ll be limited to gas station food or things that you buy from the grocery store (we definitely kept a stock of groceries in the car with us for sandwich picnics on hiking days). But if you’re willing to stretch the wallet a bit there’s plenty of good eating to be done in the land of fire and ice.

  • I’M A MOTHERFUCKIN’ DINOSAUR! I have an inflatable T-Rex costume. And I decided I was going to bring it with me. It’s inflatable, so it folds/rolls up nicely into my luggage. AND IT PAID OFF SO WELL.

  • Bonus video, because this costume is so much more hilarious in motion:

    • Critter drops! I brought four critters with me to Iceland, but I only had time to drop three. And instead of doing my usual drop-n-go methods, I gifted two out of the three directly. The first critter was gifted to our tour guide Egil at the Eimverk Distillery in Reykjavik, where I tasted many, MANY samples of whiskey, gin, and brennevin, and met a fun group of Canadians on the tour. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t walk out completely shitfaced because it was lots of good booze and I definitely came home with a bottle of Floki whiskey on the flight back home.

    The second critter was my typical drop-n’-go method, left behind at my hotel in Egilsstaðir. They had these adorable bookshare buckets in the stairways and it felt too appropriately for me not to drop one in there! It was found and now has a new home in Fellabær, Iceland!

    The third one was gifted directly to a shopkeeper in Reykjavik at an awesome indie record shop called 12 Tónar that I’d wandered into. He offered me an espresso, and I got to listen to some Icelandic tunes in this adorable little listening nook. I can’t remember the last time I used a CD player! You don’t see indie record stores like these much these days so it was such a delight to sit on a cozy couch with a pair of headphones and actually, PHYSICALLY press play on some good music.

    That’s the critter roundup in Iceland! The final and fourth critter was dropped in a bookstore in New York City during my overnight layover and it found a new home in Manhattan!

    There’s so much more that I saw and did in Iceland, but if I were to write about it all this post would become a 3-part novel. Beautiful, beautiful country, easily navigable, with gorgeous unknown gems everywhere you go. Takk, Ísland. You’re beautiful and I don’t know if I’ll see the rest of the world the same way. ❤

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