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When in Iceland

As a woman of color from the warm, sunny island of Jamaica never did I have a place called Iceland on my travel bucket list. My sister, however, did. She called and said, “Melissa, I found tickets to Iceland for dirt cheap and I booked it, do you wanna come?” I don’t much care for winter and I already live in New England, you would think I would pass. But I didn’t! My sisters and I have spent many spring breaks traveling together. However, as we attained more responsibility, our trips became less possible to do together. My little sister went to Alaska without us because an opportunity presented itself. So, I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me as well. After all, I am keeping score of our travels.

I went on Instagram and searched #iceland and saw beautiful green scenery, spectacular waterfalls, majestic Icelandic horses, and an inviting Blue Lagoon. I am not often impulsive, and as a scientist by trade, it is my eminent duty to do the research. I searched reviews on WOW airlines and found that they were generally reliable but charged extra fees for baggage and seats. Even with the fees, the round-trip was still under US $350. Rather than provide a list of pros/cons and dos/donts, I decided to share them in this blog. Do share your own experience in a blog when in Iceland!

 

With the tickets booked for the Presidents Day four-day weekend, we met up at the Boston Logan Airport. The airport was easy to get to, beautiful, clean, organized, efficient and the agents were way nicer than in NY or FL. I got through TSA easily and waited for my sister at the gate. Do fly from Boston when going to Iceland.

 

She arrived and we went and had our first vacation meal. My sister is a foodie and I am a super conscious health eater. We had lentil soup and Thai veggie dumplings. Do manage expectations for airport food.

Soon we (Melanie, Olivia Lauren, and myself) boarded our flight around 6pm.

The WOW Flight attendants were dressed in their cute pink outfits and paraded down the aisle asking if anyone wanted to purchase anything. Do choose another airline when in Iceland. We were WOWed alright.

Nothing was free. Not a bottle of water, a pack of peanuts, a cracker or chip, or a napkin. Speaking of peanuts, we had snicker chocolate bars and it was announced at the beginning of the flight that we could not open or ingest anything with peanuts because a passenger was deathly allergic. Luckily, I had my alternative, Chippie's Banana Chips.

When we were almost at our destination, the flight attendant announced that we could see the Northern Lights on the left side of the plane. We were seated on the right. We saw nothing! I jumped out of my seat to view and still nothing. Tragic.

 Day 1

We got into Reykjavik around 4am. We went relatively quickly through customs and then passed the luggage area and made our way to the exit.

We went to the bathroom and were delighted by the technology. The faucet contained both the running water and the dryer. Very nifty. We went downstairs where we were greeted by our driver (whose name I have forgotten) with my sister’s name on his tablet at the bottom of the stairs. These are the little things I live for! It was worth every penny of the $150. Do get a private driver when in Iceland.

We grabbed coffee and headed to the van, where we chatted to the driver. He told us that most people aren’t up until 8am as the sun comes up around 9am. Forty-five minutes later we were at our apartment and it was closed. Nobody was at the front desk to let us in. Do call ahead from the airport to prevent delays when in Iceland.

 

We went to a nearby bakery and then called the hotel. Walking back with suitcases in the snow on narrow, cobblestone pavement proved tricky. Do invest in a backpacking backpack when in Iceland.

 

We arrived and someone came to let us in. We left our bags and jetted to the bus station to our first tour. We checked emails from Bus Tour Iceland to confirm the bus station. The email said Bus Stop 8 but apparently there wasn’t any. Because we walked to Bus 7 and then Bus 9. We called them and they said, the email was an error, we should have been at Bus Stop 7 but they came and got us. Shortly after, we were at another Bus station where we were told to transfer to a bigger more luxurious bus. Our tour guide was a funny guy from UK named Matt and our driver was called Gummy Bear. We were glad we took a bus instead of renting a car, because we experienced sun, rain, and snow all in one day and the roads were very slippery. We heard stories of how many tourists died from attempting to travel on their own. Do take a bus tour when in Iceland!

 During the ten-hour tour, we stopped at two of south Iceland's most impressive waterfalls: Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, the former being one of Iceland's most powerful waterfalls, sought out by locals and travelers alike.  Seljalandsfoss is a picturesque cascade, famed for its walking path which allows you to hike behind it, but only in the summer time.  We were also taken to see a church, the white glacier ice caps, volcanoes, and where puffin colonies would be during the summer time. Do visit in the summer when in Iceland.

 Skogafoss waterfall.

The glaciers taking a photo with the tour guide.

Selijalandsfoss Waterfall

 

The village of Vík is the southernmost village in Iceland. The town's church, located high on a hill, is believed to be the only building that would survive a flood. We learned that most of Iceland is Lutheran, followed by Catholic.

Do get the Icelandic lamb Soup at the Ice Cave Restaurant when in Iceland. Just look out for people who may drink from the ladle of the soup before sharing their portion. Gross!

Black Sand Beach. If you like Game of Thrones, you will love this tour. Do stay far from the tides. They are strong and dangerous. Many people have died at this beach. There are so many warning signs. Do be careful and do not turn your back to the ocean when in Iceland.

 

Eyjafjallajökull volcano located on the Eastern Volcanic Zone in southern Iceland erupted April 14, 2010. A plume of volcanic ash was ejected several kilometres into the atmosphere causing a hazard for airplanes. Crazy as it seems, this volcano brought massive tourism to Iceland thereby saving its economy. Do learn the metric system when in Iceland.

During the tour we stopped several times at rest stops for warm beverages and restrooms. We were most surprised how expensive everything was, even after being forewarned. Remember most things are imported. Two teas cost 500 krona, two lattes were 900 krona. The currency is 118 krona to 1 US. Do bring a lot of money when in Iceland. They accept Master Card, Visa, Discover and US dollars, but your change will be Krona.

 

After a full day of touring, we went to our apartment to recharge our phones and cameras. Do remember to bring portable chargers for phones and electric converters when in Iceland.

 

 

We had a shower to get ready for dinner and noticed a very unpleasant smell. The water smelled like rotten eggs! Do prepare to smell like hydrogen sulfide when in Iceland.

 

We made a reservation at Geiser Smart Restaurant and were seated immediately and served by a delightful waiter who is also a musician. (Can't wait for him to blow up!) I had ocean perch. My sister had salmon. Both were delicious. Do prepare to have your taste buds excited when in Iceland.

 After dinner, we went back to the apartment. We felt so grateful! Our apartment had a living room, kitchen, bedroom, dining area, outside porch, and bathroom. The standing shower and wash basin were really tiny but everything else was ample space and size. We went to bed very late because Iceland is five hours ahead. But we were still rested. 

Day 2

We got up early, showered, dressed and walked to Bus Stop 7 from our apartment to meet Nice Travel. There were several buses. We called to make sure they knew we were waiting. They gave us the bus' license plate and the size and color of the bus to look for. That was super helpful, as there were so many tour buses picking up at the same time. Do know the station, pick up time, tour bus name and license plate of your tour bus and have your vouchers printed when in Iceland.

Our driver introduced himself as Henri. He was a native of Slovakia but lived in Iceland for 11 years. He spoke with a thick accent that was at first difficult to understand, but over time, our brain adapted. We stopped first at a national park. We were told to take in the view, take pics and meet at the bottom of the mountain. Inland is much colder than south Iceland, which we took for granted. It was freezing. We asked Henri if we could opt out of walking and drive with him instead. He said, “No Problem.” and took a photo of us by the visitor center. 

He took us to a coffee shop and then to view a frozen waterfall and we sat in the comfort of heat, while the other tourists found their way back to the bus, all crying how cold it was. Do wear thermals, long johns, gloves, hats, scarves, and bring hand and toe warmers when in Iceland! They sell on Amazon between $10 and 40, but I got the family pack for $5 at Ocean State Job Lot.

Later we stopped by Kerid crater, a geyser, a horse farm, Gulfoss Waterfall, and then the Blue Lagoon.

 

The horses are super friendly and like being petted. They don’t seem to mind a selfie either.

 

Gullfoss is a waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. It has two drops and is 105 ft tall.

Do get the Premium package at the Blue Lagoon. It includes robe, slippers, towel, mud mask, and beverage of choice.

 

When the tour ended and they dropped us back to the closest bus stop to our apartments, we dropped off our bags and went out for dinner at the same restaurant. This time to try lamb. It was the most costly dish and yet we were disappointed. But don’t take our word for it, I love veggies, my sister loves seafood. Do try the lamb, but maybe somewhere else.

 

After dinner, we decided to walk the city our last night in town. We noticed how close we were staying to the most beautiful cathedral. Do visit the church when in Iceland.

 

Standing at 74.5 meters tall Hallgrímskirkja is the tallest building in Reykjavík, the second highest building in Iceland.

 Leaving Iceland, we could have taken a cheaper option- two buses. However, the 45-minute commute would have turned into 1 hr and 50 minutes, so we opted to sleep, stay warm, and have a cab pick us up at our door step. Next to the church was a taxi stand where we met Johannesburg. We asked him to get us at 10:15am. I am very paranoid about missing flights (and have never missed one to date) and I detest long lines, so I don’t mind leaving a tad earlier to ensure smooth operations. When we woke, we saw that it was raining, so we were reassured we had made the right decision. Johannesburg showed up right on time, grabbed our bags and we slept while we rode to the airport. We arrived safely and took selfies with our driver. Do look up Johannesburg (phone: 354-8972000) when in Iceland.

 At the airport the security line was empty, the gift shops were sparse with passengers and the restaurants were up and running with little to no lines. That happens when you arrive before 3pm. We purchased chocolate and bottled water from the gift shop and ordered two health juices from Joe’s and a cheese pizza from a fast food restaurant. Do prepare to wait when in Iceland.

 

After a few hours of waiting in the lobby area of the terminal, the gate was announced on the screen. The international terminal is a 20 minute walk including getting through customs.  We proceeded to Terminal D and went through customs quickly then walked to the gate. It was quite something. We took the escalator to the basement. The next doors were closed so we waited more. Once opened we proceeded to board. We went through another set of lines to a set of stairs and a nonworking escalator to another set of lines that led to a shuttle bus. The shuttle bus drove us on the tarmac. We then proceeded to the stairs towards the plane. Up and down with luggage. Do be in top shape when in Iceland.   

 So, why is this blog posted on www.laurensimonepubs.com?

  1. Books are found everywhere! Check out this neat bookstore we found near our apartment.

2. We believe that travel is one of the best ways to learn and explore about your world. Olivia Travels is a children’s book about different modes of transportation and each scene represents different parts of our family’s travel.

  1. But if that isn’t enough, here are recommended children’s books about Iceland:
  • Nuptse and Lhotse go to Iceland by Jocey Asnong
  • A Kid’s Guide to Iceland by Jack L Roberts and Michael Owens
  • The Twins go to Iceland by Catherine Alford and Jaime Espinard
  • Everything you should know about Iceland by Anne Richard

 Thanks for reading!!


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5 comments

  • I loved the blog. Wish I was there!

    Olivia

  • Loved this blog. Thanks for sharing your experience and travel tips. I’d love to experience this one day. Keep sharing .

    Thasya

  • Love. it….. but DONT think this island boy is rushing to add ICELAND to his bucket list anytime soon!!

    Dalton

  • Great blog … like the format. Next time talk to me before you go on your spur of the moment trips, I could have save you some heartache re luggage and airline food etc.

    So when are we going on a trip?

    Sanj

  • Wow, such amazing an interesting details. I could not stop reading. Thanks for sharing Iceland through your lens Melissa. Great read. 🤗❤

    Yvette Phillips

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