Weekend Trip to Iceland
Our venture around this Nordic island
In this travel guide, I'll be sharing with you all the details on our trip to Iceland. I went with three of my friends this past fall for a weekend trip & we had the best time road tripping around the southern portion of the island.
NYC to Reykjavík
We left JFK at night and flew together via Iceland Air. This was our first time flying with this airlines and visiting Iceland, so we all were pretty hyped up since it was a new experience for all of us. The general service with Iceland Air was good. My only tip is to bring your own snacks because they didn't serve us any and I am the kind of person that likes to nibble on snacks throughout a flight.
Checking into our Accommodations
I highly advise that you rent a car for your trip to Iceland because public transportation is not very strong throughout the island and ordering taxis can get very costly (more on this shortly). By the time we landed in KEF (Iceland's main airport, which is located in the capital of Reykjavík), it was sunrise hour and we got to see the most beautiful double rainbow on our ride over from the airport to our accommodations.
Two of us were staying with a host family that my friend knew, while the other two rented a small airbnb nearby. Our accommodations were located in one of Reykjavík's local neighborhoods, which allowed us to experience a more residential lifestyle as opposed to a more touristy experience that we may have gotten at a hotel.
Horse Riding along the Lava Fields
The four of us seperated for a few hours as we each wanted to do specific activities that complemented our individual interests. For my activity, I booked a horse riding tour at a nearby farm called Ishestar Horse Riding Centre. I grew up riding horses via equestrian style, so it's always a nice experience to be back on the saddle and connect with horses. My life in NYC doesn't allow me to do this, so I was very happy to find this tour.
Ishestar offered pick up and drop off services, which I took advantage of since we only rented one car for all four of us to use. The service, safety, and professionalism of this riding centre was of great quality and I would definitely recommend it for those of you interested in riding while in Iceland. Ishestar has a lovely indoor lounge area with a cafe, weather protection/riding gear is provided, and the tours are of petite group sizes.
I booked the lava fields tour, which lasted for about an hour. Ishestar is surrounded by Iceland's famous lava fields causing the tour to have a very mystical yet enchanting atmosphere.
1) Lava fields- also known as Eldhraun ("Fire Lava"), these lava fields are located just outside of Reykjavík in the island's highlands. They are a result of one of Earth's greatest eruptions and is one of the largest lava fields in the world, according to Guide to Iceland. The eruption itself is known as Skaftáreldar (The Skaftá River Fires) and lasted from 1783-1784. Lastly, due to the fragility and the myths behind the formation of Eldhraun, do not walk atop the fields as it is prohibited (follow the walkways for pedestrians and horse riders).
2) The Icelandic horse breed- one of the main reasons why I wanted to ride horses while in Iceland was because of the rare opportunity to ride an Icelandic horse. For those interested in horses and riding, you would know of how unique this breed is. The Icelandic horse remains to be one of the world's purest and oldest breeds as they were brought to the island by Vikings in the 8th century. One way in which this breed was able to remain to pure throughout history was because of Iceland's law which prohibits the importation of foreign horses. Although there figure may appear to be on the smaller side, they are considered to be one of the strongest breeds because of their ability to withstand harsh weather conditions. Lastly, this breed is typically raised in herds; the benefit in this is that they are known to have strong social skills and a friendly/loving disposition (Adventure Women).
Night Out in Downtown Reykjavík
The four of us gathered back together later in the day and went to explore Downtown Reykjavík. Our first stop was Hallgrímskirkja Church, a Lutheran parish whose structure was completed by 1986 (Iceland Mag). It is Reykjavík's tallest building and its architectural design was inspired by the island's natural landscape.
From there, we went to Café Loki, a well-known cafe located right in front of Hallgrímskirkja. All of us were hungry for a snack so I just ordered a hot cocoa and an Icelandic pastry.
We then walked throughout the downtown streets and explored all of the shops. Downtown Reykjavík had a very quaint yet urban feel to it, making it enjoyable to stroll through.
This was the day when our car came most in handy. The thing about visiting Iceland is that most people go there to learn about and see the numerous natural landmarks that are spread out around the island. The only real way to access these locations are by car. Similar to my experience in Bali, the car rides from region to region are very long and time consuming. This is why we were only able to explore some parts of southern Island for this weekend trip. My main tip: plan ahead of time and wake up early so that you can get the most out of your day!
In this roadtrip, we got to see the main spots of the famous Golden Circle, geysers, and a few waterfalls.
Making Friends Along the Way
The best part about road trips are all the unexpected pit stops you make as you near your final destination. While driving, we pulled over to admire a herd of Icelandic horses grazing the field. It was such a nice moment as it was just us and the horses.
Dusk in the Lagoon
The next stop was Secret Lagoon. This is a more low key and cost effective alternative as opposed to Blue Lagoon. To visit this lagoon, all you have to do is pay a one-time entrance fee and then you can enjoy the facilities for as long as you'd like. We ended up being the last ones to leave because we got lost in our conversations with other travelers.
Secret Lagoon offers food and beverage options, complimentary lockers, and shower/bathroom facilities. I would recommend designating at least 3 hours for this activity.
After the lagoon, we went to the southernmost point of Reykjavík to see the lighthouse at night.
Perlan & Rooftop Cafe
Our accommodations was located right next to Perlan: Wonders of Iceland (a museum focusing on the island's current and historical geography). Unfortunately, I did not have time to explore the planetarium. However, I did get a chance to stop by the viewing deck and have breakfast at Perlan's rooftop cafe. I am a true cafe lover and I totally admired the menu and decor of this one. Natural light streamed in through the glass roof, light pink seats, flowers and greenery were the main decor aspects of this cafe. I ordered a simple cafe latte and ham/cheese croissant.
Souvenir Shopping in Downtown
Our trip was quickly coming to an end and we all wanted to get some souvenirs for our friends and family back home. Downtown Reykjavík was the place to go as most shops are located in this area.
Lighthouse, Anchor, & Mini Hot Springs
Our final stop for this trip was at Reykjavík's lighthouse viewing zone, located right next to the anchor. In this same area, there is a mini hot spring used by visitors solely for the feet. This was the perfect way to end our trip since us New Yorkers are always walking around and our feet definitely needed a final moment of relaxation! Additionally, this hot spring is completely free and has views of Reykjavík and the lighthouse.