Iceland – Country of Wonders

Iceland is the country of wonders because the scenery is absolutely amazing. A few of the wonderful qualities of Iceland are:  the people, food, adventures, views and its history.

Reykjavik

Iceland Air has several nonstop flights from the US including Denver, Boston, and New York (JFK) which makes for an easy flight into Keflavik. Air fares are reasonable and usually allow for a stop in Iceland for no extra charge.

If you are heading to Reykjavik, take the FlyBus transportation, especially because you will have just flown all night and now you can sit back, relax and see the scenery. Or you can catch a few ZZZ’s before arriving in the city – about a 30-45 minute drive.

We stayed at the IcelandAir Hotel Reykjavik Natura. The hotel backs up to the Reykjavik airport which services the puddle jumper flights to other locations in Iceland and can even get you to Greenland! Nice property, good location, tour desk on site, restaurant, and friendly staff.

If you haven’t pre-arranged your sightseeing tours, get familiar with Reykjavik Excursions. They have a hub in Reykjavik so understand that no matter where you’re staying, more than likely you will get on a bus or shuttle and go to the hub to gather more sightseers before heading out.Blue Lagoon

Here are a few adventures we took that you may enjoy:

    1. Reykjavik Grand Excursion. Start the trip off right with this intro to Reykjavik. The bus takes you through the city of Reykjavik so that you can get a sense of where you are and what you can visit – such as the Pearl hot water storage tanks, the Hofoi House, where Reagan and Gorbachev met to begin the process of ending the cold war, and many other stops.
    2. Golden Circle and Fontana Steam Baths. History, natural phenomena, and relaxation! Visit the Gullfoss waterfall, comparable to Niagara Falls in its grandeur. Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site is a beautiful area that is home to the original site of the oldest existing Parliament in the world.  The Mid-Atlantic ridge that divides the North American and European tectonic plates is clearly visible. Geysir Hot Spring field –hot springs formations, bubbling hot water, and exploding geysirs – while not as impressive as Yellowstone, is worth a visit. Finally, Fontana Steam Baths in the small village of Laugarvatn has several steam baths built over an active hot spring. Enjoy a Finnish-style sauna and outdoor mineral baths, and if the timing is right, the hostess may even share her hot spring-baked rye bread – truly amazing!
    3. Horseback-riding Icelandic style. We spent a day riding horses through the Lava Fields. The Ishetar riding center was founded in 1982 and takes pride in taking care of both riders and horses. The Icelandic horse is the only breed in Iceland and can be traced back to the late 9th century. It looks like a stocky pony but is capable of handling any rider, novice to expert.
    4. Eyjafjallajokull Tour. Okay, if you can pronounce it, you’re special! This is the volcano that interrupted northern European travel in 2010. We selected a luxury Jeep Grand Cherokee tour that was supposed to get us near the mountain but due to flooded rivers, we couldn’t get there. Instead, our friendly guide took us on a tour of the south coast of Iceland. We saw the Skogafoss waterfall (60-meter drop) that you can walk behind. We walked up to the Myrdalsjokull glacier and we saw the Gljufrabui waterfall (featured in the film, Thor II, coming out in 2013). We walked along the black sand beach. Four of us had the guide to ourselves and although it was raining, we had a great time.  
    5. Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis. Watch the weather for this tour because, depending on the time of year, cloud cover may prevent seeing the lights. Our tour on a clear night departed at 10 PM.  Our best view came when our bus driver took us up a hill to avoid city light pollution. We got out to an exquisite view of the lights. With a manual exposure camera and tripod, you can get great photos!
    6. Blue Lagoon. Located in the mystical lava fields of the Reykjanes Peninsula, this stop is highly recommended on your trip back to the Keflavik airport. It’s a geothermal mineral lake renowned for its restorative and healing powers. Lockers, towels, and changing rooms are all available to make the trip an easy stop and enjoy a dip.

Blue Lagoon

One of the highlights of our adventure was walking around Reykjavik. The city is very clean and feels safe.  Transportation is easily accessible with bus service and taxis are very reasonably priced. The people are friendly and the food is delicious. Look for a place to dine that looks inviting and then check out the menu. We found several restaurants downtown and off the beaten path that offered delicious food and warm, inviting ambiance. If you are looking for a quick warm-up or a little snack, the Paris Café has excellent hot chocolate.

Remember to make sure you know the weather conditions before you go. While the climate is not the frozen tundra one might expect, Iceland gets a lot of rain. Make sure you have a good rain jacket. When packing, remember: layers, layers, layers!

Iceland is a great place for anyone looking for a new adventure!

Clues for our next stop:

1)      A city that’s considered a National Park

2)      Known for Bathhouse Row

3)      Famous Oaklawn Park has live horse races JAN-APR

Karen Riechel

Karen Riechel

I’m married with 2 cats, no kids. Currently employed in the travel industry (corporate travel). My husband, Jay, and I live in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. We are huge sports fans: baseball (ROCKIES), football (Broncos), basketball (Nuggets), NASCAR racing, bowling… We love to travel both around the world and throughout the US!

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