By now, you’ve probably seen photos of Iceland populating your social media feeds: pockets of geothermal hot springs, sprawling green mountains covered in lush greenery and all of the ponies. It truly is one of the most Instagramable places in the world — everywhere you go is beautiful. It’s also one of the most untouched places I’ve ever been to — so mountainous and green and quiet that I found myself continuously expecting an elf to pop out from behind a rock. It’s just that kind of place. I want to go again and again and again after that. Here are seven places we visited, loved and kept us super snap-happy.
Kex is a hostel housed in an old biscuit factory. It’s filled with comfy old couches and chairs, bookshelves lining the wall, industrial-style pendant lights and bird cages hanging from the ceiling. Unlike the hostels in my early twenties (#ripyouth), this one was a mix of young people and families with small children, which gave it a super homey vibe. Their breakfast was excellent: homemade granola, Skyr, cottage cheese and fruit, fresh homemade bread and jam, cold cuts and cheeses and hard boiled eggs for the win! Bonus: the amazing view from the kitchen/dinging room is unmatched.
After a night at KEX, we went to collect our camper van from Kuku Campers. Not only was driving around and sleeping in a camper van all week so fun, it was also incredibly cost efficient and time saving. A car is a must if you want to travel around the island, and this way it meant we were saving almost $1,000 on accommodation with the freedom to drive as far as we wanted in a day without having to turn back. Our camper was so compact and comfy (though I would recommend bringing your own pillow!) and outfitted with everything we needed for the week. There are designated spots on the side of the highway throughout Iceland where you can camp overnight (for free), though the spots aren’t private. We did a mix of sleeping on the side of the road and camping in designated campgrounds (for about $10 a night/per person) so we could take a shower, use the wifi and have access to hot water. One of my most favourite things about driving around in a camper was stopping on the side of the road and cooking breakfast in the mornings, surrounded by mountains.
The small town of Hveragerdi is super quaint, and is the starting point for an incredible trail that leads to a hot river. My phone and camera died (naturally) before I could get any shots of the hike, but take my word when I say it was hands down the best trail I’ve ever done. Pockets of steam rise from below the earth, so it looks like it’s smoking all around you. Bring your bathing suit! Near the end of the hike, there’s a natural geothermal river that was so hot it left my skin red.
After spending the day scouting out epic waterfalls, I asked a woman working a tourist shop if there were any hot springs near by. She told us to drive a bit and turn left. After driving down a random road filled with potholes (and me saying “this is definitely not the right way” about 20 times) we got to a dead end and parked the car. After walking through about 15 minutes of mountain that were covered in low clouds, we found this geothermal pool buried between green mountains and waterfalls. It was breathtaking and super hot. We took a dip, obvi.
Vik, Southern Iceland
As we drove through Southern Iceland, the view was pretty much what you see above but times a million. It’s so breathtaking that it’s difficult to take in all at once. I think my mouth was hanging open for most of the week, trying to comprehend all the beauty around me. We camped in the small village of Vik, which is near beautiful black sand beaches. Southern Iceland, around the area of the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, is now one of my most favourite places in the world.
Black sand, towering basalt columns and a whole lot of sea makes up this beach. Fun fact: Bon Iver shot his music video Holocene here.
We ended our journey in Reykjavik, a hip city filled with even hipper locals. Painted houses in every colour of the rainbow lined the side residential streets and the main shopping area was filled with stores dedicated to selling prints and film cameras and Danish decor (I was in heaven). The day we were there they were painting the outside of this storefront in rainbow colours to celebrate pride weekend. Because, Iceland. Oh, and then we saw a couple of whales. I wasn’t actually completely sure how I felt about whale watching, and to be honest, I’m still not totally keen on the idea. We took the tour with Elding which boasts responsible whale watching — apparently it’s also the first and only environmentally certified whale watching company in Iceland. I’m really glad we went, but I’m not sure I would do it again.
Have you ever been to Iceland? What are some places you loved? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!