I spent a long weekend in Iceland. It was amazing and I want to tell you about it.
Back in January I started thinking about what I wanted to do for 30th birthday in April. 3-0! It needed to be good. Real good.
Initially I told my family to come out to visit. We could rent an Airbnb, explore the mountains, and hang out together. But that didn’t happen because of lack of vacation days, expensive travel, planting season, etc. Then I emailed my girlfriends about doing a camping trip in Moab. We could camp and hike and wander around the area. But that didn’t work out because all the camping sites were already all reserved (in January!!).
Instead my mom, younger brother, and his boyfriend ended up coming at the end of March (my dad got sick and had to cancel his flight last-minute) and my girlfriends and I went to Moab mid-March. Both were amazing, ridiculously fun weekends. However, it still left me with an open 30th birthday weekend.
Then it hit me – Iceland! My Instagram feed has been filled with people travelling there and posting beautiful pictures. Plus, you can fly there direct from Denver for a pretty good price. Soooo… a long weekend in Iceland?! Yes.
While this idea was fresh in my head I happened to have met a man through the Feral Mountain Co ambassador program. We started dating. I told him about Iceland and he said, “Well, I’d go with you if you want.” Ummm… yes, I do want. We ended up booking flights a few weeks later and I crossed my fingers and hoped and hoped that we would still be together by the time April rolled around.
(We were still together when we boarded the flight to Reykjavik and we are still together now.)
- Buy the flight tickets.
- Book the hotel.
- Figure out what the heck we are going to do in Iceland for 3.5 days.
Buy The Flights
After a lot of stalking flight prices on Icelandair and some discount travel sites, we ended up booking tickets through Vayama.com for April 14-18 for $510. This would give us a full 3.5 days to explore Iceland (land 6:30am Saturday, fly out 4:45pm Tuesday).
I was a little nervous about booking through Vayama, but it was $100 cheaper than going directly through Icelandair. The flight was direct and I purchased flight insurance for an extra $10, so I figured everything would turn out just fine and it did!
A word to the wise: Icelandair does not offer free meals, snacks, or drinks like most airlines do for international flights. You can upgrade your ticket, purchase your inflight meal in advance, or bring your own food (<recommended).
Book The Hotel
Then we started looking up hotels. We wanted something nice and something central to downtown Reykjavik. We landed on Hlemmur Square Hotel. Most of this was due to the fact that we were drinking cocktails while we were hotel searching and “hlemmur” was fun to say.
We enjoyed our stay at Hlemmur Square. The rooms were nice, very clean, and had one of the most amazing shower heads I’ve ever used. There was a bar downstairs that served breakfast and also had a decent happy hour in the evenings. Also, the location was super convenient. We could easily walk to anywhere we wanted to go in the city. Overall, a great choice!
Figure Out What The Heck We Are Going To Do In Iceland For 3.5 Days
Initially we were thinking to just book some tours and walk around the city. From a couple of quick “what to do in Iceland” Google searches we knew we at least needed to tour the Golden Circle and visit the Blue Lagoon.
After thinking about it a little bit more, realizing that neither of us were thrilled at the idea of having a strict schedule and being stuck with other people on tour buses, we decided to rent a car.
Let me tell you, renting a car in Iceland is not cheap. At all. However, the freedom to drive around and do whatever we felt like outweighed the expense. Plus, at the end of the day the cost of the car should about the same as booking a couple of tours.
We ended up booking though Lagoon Car Rental. They offered free shuttles from the airport and had decent rates. Since it wasn’t the dead of winter and we weren’t planning on doing any crazy off-roading we went with the cheapest automatic car (but then got upgraded to a Renault Talisman) and purchased gravel insurance.
Turns out gravel insurance was a very smart choice. When we returned the car before our flight back to Denver they discovered a very small scratch on the passenger door. I’m talking small, like 1/4″. To make a long story short, they charged us $1350 to fix the scratch (after crediting me $2520 from the initial $3870 that they had me deposit). This was still too many $$$, so I re-read through the contract and the website FAQs and found that the body of the car was in fact insured under gravel protection, meaning that the most we should have to pay was $110. They credited me another $1240. Paying $110 was way better than paying $1350. Such an ordeal!
Moral of the story: I recommend getting insurance.
After more “what to do in Iceland” Google searches and reaching out to friends that traveled there we had a tentative plan to:
- Drive the Golden Circle to see Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss
- Hang out at the Blue Lagoon
- Drive the Southern Coast to see Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, and the black sand beaches
- Explore Reykjavik
I was pretty happy about this plan. Even though we would only be in Iceland for 3.5 days it seemed that we could see/do a lot of things while having plenty of time to hang out and relax.
What I Packed
Over the course of a lot of trips and travelling I’ve improved my packing skills by quite a bit; however, I’m still pretty terrible at it. Deciding what to bring, buying last-minute things, getting everything into the suitcase – it’s such a process! I found that making lists helps a ton.
I knew the weather was not going to be awesome (40s, rainy) and that we were going to be in the car a lot, so I decided to bring a versatile mix of casual/workout/comfortable/dressy clothing.
Here’s what I packed:
- Tops: 2 black tank tops for layering, 2 plaid shirts (one cotton, one flannel), black zip-up hoodie, black sweater, Feral t-shirt, thermal Henley, turtle neck sweater
- Bottoms: black jeans, 3 pairs of leggings (2 black and these)
- Jackets: Patagonia rain jacket, Mountain Hardwear puffy coat
- Shoes: Nike Frees, black booties
- Miscellaneous: swim suit, pajamas, socks, underwear, baseball hat, sunglasses belt, toiletries, chargers, power adaptors, books on my iPad
I also brought a dress, a leather jacket, and running clothes that I didn’t end up touching.
Considering that food is really expensive in Iceland and that we were going to be driving around the majority of the day, we also packed a lot of snacks: ProBars, Bobo’s Oat Bars, instant coffee, 3 types of trail mix (tex mex, gorp, and mixed nuts), fruit leather, and chocolate covered almonds. It was more than enough.
Everything fit into my small roller suitcase, Osprey pack, and a large purse. I definitely could have packed a little lighter, but I had the room, so why not?!
Sooo… that’s all kind of the background and boring stuff about the trip. More of the fun things to come! But here is a preview…