A Weekend in Reyjkavik

The Northern Lights, The Blue Lagoon, and Whales.. Oh My!

Iceland has always seemed like this far off land full of mystery and adventure to me.  It absolutely is full of mystery and adventure, but we’re in 2018 and it’s pretty easy to get to Reykjavik these days.

I was doing a normal browse of the internet one day when I came across a ridiculous flight deal from Newark to Reykjavik for $250 with Icelandair.  I was stopped dead in my tracks, are you kidding me? It costs more to fly within the U.S. Naturally, I booked 2 tickets for Michael and I, then sent a text to my friends about the deal I found.

Regardless, a bunch of my friends decided to join and our group of 8 met up at a wine bar in Newark airport.  There’s always a little concern to be had I think with a budget airline, but I was very impressed by Icelandair.  I didn’t reserve any food or specialty items for the trip, but ended up buying a sandwich for relatively cheap.

Our flight was only about 5.5 hours and we tried to sleep but got caught up watching movies.  As we started our descend into Reykjavik though my heart started to race.  Our wheels were down but the map said we were well over water, and everything was pitch black.  Obviously, we made it – yay – but I had a minor panic attack.

During the winter months you only see about 4 hours of sunlight each day, which was so surreal to us as we drove into town and people were up and working in the dark. We grabbed some breakfast and went for a walk around town because our rooms weren’t ready yet, and let me tell you, this is the cutest damn town! Everything was covered in snow and it was like a winter village.  I love it!  But let’s get to the good stuff.

Where to Eat

We dined like queens & kings in Iceland.  I came with a group of very adventurous eaters and eat we did!  Our first dinner was a 7-course wine pairing at Dill, the only Michelin star restaurant in the country.  It was really interesting how dill was worked into each dish, be it a garnish, or an oil, or the main attraction, I liked the creativity a lot, the taste took second place for me.

Little did we know that our first meal, which we assumed would be the best, was our least favorite of the trip.

One thing you will read about is the hot dogs here.  Apparently they are the best in Europe so we naturally had to have them, multiple times.  Baejarins Betzu Pylsur is the hot dog stand that you will read about.  Order the hot dog the way they make it, otherwise prepare to be severely judged! Its actually pretty delicious and I really loved the fried onions on the bottom that were actually perfectly crispy!

The following day we ate dinner at Food Cellar, and holy moly was it delicious.  I was sold immediately on the place when I saw they had draft mojitos on the menu.  That was a new one for me and the first thing I ordered once we sat down.  They did not disappoint!

We also had puffin, goose, and Minke whale.  Each bite turned out better than the next.  Mike even found the buckshot in his goose, so we know the food was really fresh!

This group loves a good food tour, so we did one with Reykjavik Food Walks.  I have never eaten so much in my life, I thought I was going to be sick halfway through because we just had so many stops and so much to eat! Definitely recommend the tour but go on a very, very empty stomach and eat slowly, and don’t finish anything.  Unless of course you are like a Man v. Food kind of person, then have at it!

 

My favorite thing on the food tour was the Rye Bread Ice Cream at Cafe Loki.  I had never dreamed of such a concoction and now I wish I could be spoon feeding it to myself in bed every night.  I also died over the fish we ate at Messinn.  It was our guides first time at this restaurant and he was crazy over the food.  I think he had 3 helpings!  We did a fish stew and there was an Arctic Char with toasted almonds on top that was such a dreamy, perfectly balanced dish that I can taste it now.

Our last night we ate at Fish Market, and again, just another incredible meal.  The food here is so fresh and delicious, every meal really was better than the last.  This time we did some sashimi, and again the Minke whale.  I didn’t love the Minke whale here as much as at Food Cellar but it was still really good.  The drinks are great too!

All of the places were pretty popular so I would suggest reservations anywhere you may want to go.

What to Do

When you think of Iceland one of two things come immediately to your mind – The Blue Lagoon, or the Northern Lights.  You have to do both when you visit.

Our trip was centered around seeing the Northern Lights so we booked a tour for the first night we were there just in case we didn’t see them and could try again.  Most tour companies will actually let you come back and try again for free if you don’t see the lights on your original tour.

Northern Lights

I booked ours through Odinn Tours and got a private car for us.  It was a little over $100 a person, but I thought it was totally worth it to just have our group and be able to dictate what we did instead of taking one of the bigger tours where we had no control over what happened.

Pauley was our guide and he picked us up from the hotel and off we went to chase the Northern Lights!  Our first stop we sat outside for a while trying to see them.  He pointed out that they aren’t as visible to the naked eye and are more magnified in a photo so we have some pictures of the lights that are pretty weak.  Naturally we were a bit disappointed because you want to see these fabulous colors sweeping through the sky.

We waited at our original spot a bit longer, drank some Brennivin (not for the weak of heart), and made our way home.  As we were driving along the highway we thought we saw something and yelled for Pauley to pull over.  Sure enough we were right.  This time, with the naked eye we saw streams of green floating through the sky and I cried.  Here we were, in the middle of nowhere, and one of the most majestic natural wonders right in front of us.  We had it all to ourselves and I am now in the mind to chase the Northern Lights somewhere new each year.

The Blue Lagoon

You’ve seen the pictures all over Pinterest, you’ve looked at the health benefits, you read there was a swim up bar, and you are wondering if its really as great as it seems. YES! The Blue Lagoon really is as amazing as it seems it would be online.

We did the Comfort option which is the second cheapest and I really think it gave us everything we needed. In January it is COLD and that water feels unreal when you get in.  The water is as blue as it is in the photos, the volcanic rock around you is just as cool looking, and the face masks feel amazing.

Its a really well run attraction and I thought the whole process was seamless from check in, to getting ready to get in the water (everyone has to shower) and then actually enjoying yourself.  We stayed for about 2 hours, maybe a little more and I really could have spent all day.  A lot of people go straight from the airport because landing in the morning your room won’t be ready and I would recommend doing that and booking well in advance because we waited and were almost unable to go.  They regulate the amount of people and our session sold out but it was not crowded at all which I think is incredible. In America, its pack them til they are sardines and make all the money, but here at the Blue Lagoon the focus seemed to be the comfort and relaxation of the guests.

Whale Watching

Michael really wanted to whale watch.  As soon as I told him I was taking him to Iceland for his birthday that was his first request.  I was a bit weary since it was January and being cold on the water, but also if we would even see whales.

We walked down to the harbor one day just us and asked about the tours.  Special Tours had a boat heading out about 15 minutes later and they did think we would be able to see some whales so we got the tickets and hit the deck.

As we got on we saw a ton of people wearing these horrid mass produced body suits and were against it at first but luckily decided to put them on atop our clothing.  We got a spot right in the front of the boat and holy mother of Jesus was it freezing.  I had tears pouring out of my eyes, I could barely breathe, and I lost feeling in my hands, but you know what? We saw some whales and Michael was happy.

It took us a while to find the whales, but we saw a bunch of dolphins who were swimming up and playing with the boat.  I think in the summer time it would have been a much better excursion.  I tried as hard as I could to enjoy the beauty around us and listen to the guide over the loudspeaker but I was focused on not catching frost bite.

End Game

I loved being in Iceland.  It had been a bucket list place for me for years, thanks to photos of the Blue Lagoon on Pinterest! We were only gone for about 3.5 days and to stay in Reykjavik that was plenty of time but I do feel like I have a lot of territory to cover still with the rest of the country.  I’ll be back in the summer time so I can experience the Golden Circle and the southern part of the island.

Anytime you decide to go will be fun, just come prepared!  But if you don’t, there were some very inexpensive fur coats downtown at The Golden Kitten.  You can’t miss it.

 

 

 

 

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