Traveling the Land of Ice and Fire

I recently got back from an amazing trip to Iceland! I initially traveled there along with my boss and coworker for a hair show and conference called the Davines World Wide Hair Tour (WWHT), and decided to stay several extra days in order to travel the country and see as much as we could. The purpose of this post is to outline my trip and share some recommendations if you’re ever going to travel to the land of ice and fire, which I will go ahead and say: I HIGHLY recommend. Especially if you get a chance to travel there during the Summer season, in which there is about 4 hours of dusk each night.

b1b25a29-aec8-468f-8f10-3352415fd479Davines is a sustainable product company based in Italy, which we use and sell at the salon I work in. The 2019 WWHT was hosted in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland. Davines chooses an eco-friendly city every year to host the event. During the WWHT we stayed in a hotel called the Fosshotel Reykjavík, as it was a short distance from the Harpa Concert Hall & Theatre, where the event was held. It was an incredibly clean and nice hotel, with an excellent complementary breakfast; but once I discuss where we stayed for the second leg of the trip, you may decide against a hotel for your vacation! I’ll get to that later, though!

Our first day in the country we decided to visit the ultimate tourist hotspot: The Blue Lagoon. The “Comfort Package” is around 56 USD and includes entrance to the lagoon, a towel, a silica mud mask, and one drink. I wouldn’t pass up visiting if you’ve never been, however, I am glad we decided to do this the first day, as our activities just got more and more impressive as the trip went on.5f55fb8e-423d-44ed-834c-103bede6fd25-1

The Blue Lagoon provided some much-needed relaxation after the long day of continuous travel. Getting to soak in the beautiful, steamy blue waters of the lagoon was just what I needed after a day of commuting. We decided on the cheapest day package offered at the Lagoon, which included a four-hour visit, one beverage, and a silica face mask. I was so relaxed afterwards I was able to fall asleep quickly in my hotel room and sleep throughout the night, which is rare for me on trips. And although the Blue Lagoon is a super touristy activity, it wasn’t overly crowded and uncomfortable, which really surprised me.

57891448889__83cb559e-bfa6-4394-97ec-2d9588b0bd39The next couple of days consisted of the WWHT shows, a tour around the Reykjavík peninsula area, a dinner, and a party. We met fellow hairdressers from different places, tried traditional Icelandic dishes, planted trees as part of a reforestation project, watched incredible hair artists create beautiful work on stage, and danced the night away. The tour included with our ticket was very informational and the tour guide was a hoot. We visited the Bridge Between Two Continents in Sandvík, climbed up a mountain at the Kysuvík Hot Springs, and planted trees native to Alaska. It was an incredible time and if you’re in the hair industry, or work with Davines, I recommend you attend at least once.

Once WWHT ended, we stayed in an Airbnb cabin about 35 minutes outside the city of Reykjavík in Mosfellsbær. It was the cutest place, in a small neighborhood around a lake in a valley between beautiful mountains. We also rented a car in order to get around the island.

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8882e7ba-2fa0-4652-a1a6-c4adda62a3cbThe first day after WWHT, we visited the Akranes Lighthouse and Kirkjufellsfoss, a beautiful waterfall near Kirkjufell Mountain in Grundarfjörður. Some scenes from Game of Thrones were also filmed near this location. I am so glad we started out with this waterfall; while it is magnificent to see, our waterfall sightings just got better and better as the trip went on!

 

img_9970The next waterfall we went to was Seljalandsfoss in South Iceland. For this one, I recommend wearing waterproof clothing, as the path leads to a spot behind the falls where there is a lot of mist. I also recommend following the path past the first large waterfall, as it continues back into a cave, where there is another waterfall hidden away. 

d05bf2eb-912f-4af7-ae5b-019d33ac5a91After that, we travelled to Skógafoss near the small village of Skógar. This waterfall is where some scenes from History’s Vikings were filmed! There are about 600 (not kidding) stairs you can climb up the side of the falls in order to get a better view, and honestly, it was so worth it! The view from the top was breathtaking!

Next we took a couple mile hike to the shore to see the Sólheimasandur plane crash site. It was a US Navy plane that crashed in 1973 when it ran out of fuel over the black beach along the South Coast. 

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img_0197We ended this day with one of my favorite sights on the trip, the Black Sand Beach near Vík. This location is where Flóki’s ship first lands in Iceland in season 5 of Vikings! Everything about this place was magical. There were incredible basalt columns made of old lava and beautiful stone structures out in the waves of the ocean. There was a cave formed in the basalt columns, and we even spotted a few puffin!3fa95950-3792-44ac-923f-01a782561cbd

0eaffe10-4f72-417d-84cf-4e4448e6120bThe next day, we went on a horseback riding tour at Icelandic HorseWorld. It was so much fun! My horse’s name was Orion and he was a 19-year-old retired competition horse. I don’t have too much experience riding horses, but Orion was the sweetest. The girls guiding us were so kind, and even showed us how to do a type of trot that only Icelandic horses do, called Tölt. They said, if done correctly, you could carry a glass of water while riding the horse and it would not spill. It is described as a fluid gait, during which one foot is in contact with the ground at all times. 

After our horseback riding adventure, we visited a couple of geysirs – Strokkur and Litli. Litli was just a wee baby geysir, while Strokkur can erupt up to 130 feet in the air. These were neat to see, but be warned, they do not smell the greatest. 

img_0316Next, we stopped at Gullfoss, a giant waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river. During the 20th century, it was proposed that they use the waterfall to generate electricity, however attempts fell through and it is now owned and protected by the state of Iceland.  

img_0345Later that night we decided to go into Reykjavík and check out the nightlife. We visited the Lebowski Bar, ate at the Chuck Norris Grill, chilled at a bar called Boston, then went back to the Lebowski Bar to dance and have more White Russians. The bar scene was perfect for those who love to party. The PDA was a lot more prevalent than it is in American bars, and they actually played mostly American music on the dance floor. We left the bars at around 4am (they close at 5am), and the party was still going strong!

img_0404The next day we made our way to þingvellir National Park. Here we saw some shooting locations for Game of Thrones and Öxarárfoss, another beautiful waterfall. The park is in a rift valley, where the American and European tectonic plates meet; the sight is a clear sign of continental drift. 

We then visited the Secret Lagoon or Gamla Laugin, a smaller, more natural version of the Blue Lagoon in Flúðir. It, I think, was even more relaxing than the Blue Lagoon, and they provided noodle floats, which was pretty fun. 

img_0440Next we hiked through the mountains to the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River in the town of Hveragerði. The hike was moderate, but could be a little rough in some areas if you don’t workout regularly (aka me, I was definitely out of breath). But in the end, it was so worth it. The sights on the hike are just magnificent, but once you make it to the thermal river, it is absolutely breathtaking. The water was so clear and warm, making it the perfect spot to relax your muscles before climbing back down the mountain. 

284874e4-6896-47e7-94ec-6141be112599Our last full day in Iceland we decided to go on a tour of the Katla Ice Cave, part of the Kötlujökull glacier. In order to get to the ice cave, we did a little off-roading through the black volcanic sand plains of the volcano Katla, which is still active. The ice cave is near some mountains used for the filming of the opening scenes in Rogue One: A Star War’s Story, too, which was pretty neat to see. Our tour guide said that the ice cave is melting so quickly that within a few months they will no longer be able to do tours there, as some parts of the cave we visited were already too dangerous to venture in. The glaciers lose about 40 square kilometers of ice each year, and Iceland’s total glacier-covered areas have shrunk by about 2000 square kilometers since the end of the 19th century. It is crazy to see the effects of global warming up close and personal. 

img_0565After the tour of the Katla Ice Cave, we ventured back into Vík to have a Gull (Iceland’s most popular beer) and watch the Icelandic Lava Show, the only place in the world where you can experience real molten lava in a safe environment. After the lava flows into the room and hardens on the outside, you have the opportunity to break it up with a metal rod and expose the red hot sticky lava inside. It was a very informative show about the volcanic activity in Iceland and seeing actual lava is something I don’t recommend you pass up. Also, as a souvenir everyone was given a black rock of hardened lava! 

20d16a23-ac11-451a-a3c0-ef725e5649c0-1We finished off the day with some souvenir shopping in Reykjavík, and visited the Lebowski bar for drinks and snacks one last time. We then headed to a local pizza place called Devito’s, which made for a delicious dinner. Heading back to our Airbnb, we reflected on our amazing trip and couldn’t believe it was already almost over. 

Overall, my experience in Iceland was absolutely fantastic, and I would, hands down, love to visit again one day. If you’re looking for an outdoorsy getaway, I highly recommend traveling there. Just be sure you come prepared with waterproof clothing and lots of layers. We got really lucky with the weather, as it stayed pretty consistent throughout our trip. But I have heard it can change in seconds and with little warning, and it tends to go from sunny to windy and rainy fairly quickly. 

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A few other recommendations:

  • Try out the gas station food. Really, it’s delicious and nothing like it is in America. 
  • Don’t forget your swimsuit! Although it tends to be chilly, you don’t want to miss out on getting in the natural hot springs to warm up.
  • Bring hiking boots. They will be your best friends in Iceland.
  • If you visit the Lebowski Bar, try out a “Boogie” shake, a delicious milkshake spiked with the alcohol of your choice. I recommend the chocolate shake with kahlua. 
  • If you’re looking for a fun place to grab a bite to eat, try out the Chuck Norris Grill. Their sweet potato fries are to die for.
  • Try the Gull. Like I mentioned earlier, it is Iceland’s most popular beer, and I swear the Icelandic water just makes it better than anything we have in America. 
  • The American restaurants you see will not be like at home, just a fair warning. Their KFC didn’t even have mashed potatoes! 
  • Put the paprika salt on your french fries. Just about every restaurant had shakers of the stuff everywhere, and once I tried it, I could see why!
  • Buy some chocolate. Seriously, the chocolate is amazing.

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Do yourself a favor and take a look at the beautiful photos of my trip below!

Have you been to Iceland? Is there any must-see locations we didn’t get to? Feel free to leave your tales of the land of Ice and Fire in the comments below!

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