The land of fire and ice

The mystery and grandeur of Iceland has made this land of fire and ice live at the top of my travel bucket list for years.

This week, dreams became reality.

I booked my trip through WOW Airlines, a discount carrier operating out of BWI and other cities throughout the US. I found the airlines to be modern, aside from no entertainment options on the plane and you have to pay for all the extras – extra luggage allowance, food on board. The staff was professional and welcoming.

Reykjavik Excursions is equally as professional – I’ve never experienced a holiday that ran so on time! I booked three trips through them during the three days I was in country, and couldn’t say enough nice things about them.

Here are some travel tips from my trip:

The Keflavik airport is like visiting an IKEA store – they’ve made major improvements to the interior, the free wifi is fast, and there’s a huge market where you can buy all goods from Iceland – food, liquor, sweaters. You definitely want to stop by here before retrieving your luggage, because you can’t re-enter the market area once you get to baggage claim.

Based on the advice of Facebook friends, I toured the Blue Lagoon immediately upon 13434962_10154412663114369_546390353338082003_nlanding. I recommend picking a seat on the left-hand side of the bus – it’s the best look at the Iceland countryside!

The geothermal water feature is fascinating because of its radiant blue appearance, its 100 degree F temps and composition of silica, algae and minerals. I purchased the premium package, which frankly was a bit of overkill, but the premium line did move faster than the others. The geothermal waters will dehydrate you, so you’re encouraged to drink a lot of water (and also why it’s not recommended you visit before flying back to your home destination).

When visiting Blue Lagoon, you drop you luggage at the front gate where your bus lets you off. The premium package included a drink and a robe – I didn’t really need the robe, but wearing it around did make me feel fancy. There’s a pool bar to sip on a cocktail or beer – but there’s a three-drink maximum to ensure safety in the water.

As I was traveling solo, there’s only so long you can stay in a swimming pool before it just gets weird, so I left the lagoon after about 90 minutes before jumping back on one of the regularly scheduled return buses to the Reykjavik bus station. The Flybus system runs like clockwork. The large bus transporting you from the Lagoon or airport takes you to the main bus station, and you’re separated onto smaller buses for transport to your accommodations in town.

I stayed at Guesthouse Sunna, and couldn’t have loved it more. It’s within a walkable distance of all the restaurants and sites in Reykjavik, and the staff is fantastically courteous and helpful. Breakfast was included in my stay, and the friendly overnight host even had coffee ready for my 2:30 am ride to the airport.

Some of my favorite restaurants and spots in Reykjavik included:

IMG_4392Solon Bistro: I ate the Minke Whale steak on my final night of my trip, and treated myself to the fried Camembert cheese with blueberry jam, and a Gull beer.

The Lebowski Bar: All my friends know what a huge fan of the Cohen Brother’s classic The Big Lebowski, and I was thrilled to spend two nights at this joint – Friday night for an 80s dance party and Sunday night when they aired the NBA Finals (Go Cavs!) They offer around a dozen different White Russians, and whathaveyou.

13442155_10154412663879369_769955939031046178_n

This cute little “singles” fence.

 

 

 

Vinyl: I didn’t make it to this vegan cafe and record store, but it’s first on my list for my next trip.

Prikid: I made this dive bar my homebase during my visit. Billed as the oldest coffee bar in Reykjavik, it boasts the best scene for locals and good pub fare for food. I loved the folks I met there on Saturday so much I went back to see them on Sunday.

Here are some places recommended to me that I just didn’t make it to during my trip:

Fiskfelagid

Hurra nightclub for dancing

Kaldi Bar for Happy Hour

3 Frakkar for horse steak and other Icelandic specialties

A couple of final tips:

  • 13442368_10154412663999369_5927031108055932692_nGet cash at the airport ATM – you’ll use it a lot.
  • Eat a hot dog. This is an Icelandic specialty covered in onion, bacon bits, mustard, ketchup and mayo.
  • Be sure to book a FlybusPlus ticket for return to the airport – the “plus” ensures pick-up at your hotel or accommodation.
  • Dress in layers. I visited in June and at times during the day needed one or two jackets depending on the wind.
  • And buy a sweater – it’s a great memento from your Icelandic adventure