Iceland had been on my bucket list since the first time Matt and I went to Europe together. We flew through Iceland on the way to Frankfurt and after watching an incredible sun rise while our plane was touching down in Keflavik I was completely intrigued. I wanted to start planning a trip there right away [and the one we were on had hardly even started].
But my logical half [aka Matt] was having a hard time getting on board with all my travel plans. And as much as I hate to admit it, he had a point. Iceland is notorious for being expensive. It’s also small and we were afraid of running out of things to do. But honestly, our biggest hesitation was the food [steamed sheep head and fermented shark didn’t sound overly appealing]. So when Matt, myself, and my mother-in-law booked a trip to the Netherlands last fall, we decided that it would be a great opportunity to stopover on the way home to ‘test it out’.
We were only going to be in Iceland for a day and a half, so my goal was to make sure we left feeling like we came, we saw, and we conquered. That way if we decided Iceland wasn’t really for us, we already did everything we wanted to do and it could still be crossed off the bucket list.
The two things that I really wanted to do during our visit were check out the Blue Lagoon and explore Reykavik.
Our flight was scheduled to land in Keflavik later in the afternoon, so we planned on stopping at the Blue Lagoon before heading into Reykavik because that gave us a full day to explore the city and check out all of it’s highlights.
The Blue Lagoon
First, if you are booking a trip to the Blue Lagoon, you have to purchase your tickets in advance. Like months in advance. We planned on being there at the end of September, and even when we bought our tickets in June, some of the days were already full.
[Pro tip: when we scheduled our visit at the Blue Lagoon, we also booked tickets for a bus that would pick us up at the airport, drive us to the Lagoon, and then take us into Reykavik when we were done. If you aren’t planning on renting a car, I would highly recommend doing this because cabs in Iceland are super expensive].
We ended up enjoying the Blue Lagoon a lot more then we expected. It’s actually pretty big, and between the swim up bar, complementary face masks, and the sauna, our 3 hour visit seemed to fly by. Looking back, I’m so happy with how the day panned out. Even with all of our luggage, stopping on the way from the airport could not have been easier and the whole experience was the perfect way to end a long day of travelling.
We stayed at the CenterHotel Midgardur and after a lovely complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we set out to explore the city. The hotel is located right at the end of Laugavegur, the main shopping street, so we spent the most of the morning browsing the cute little shops as we worked our way towards the harbor.
Along the way we stopped at Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland’s iconic Lutheran church, and one of the biggest highlights of the city.
One thing that really stood out to me about this church was how simple it was. I loved how it incorporated some of the architectural detailing that you would expect of a European cathedral without all of the ornamentation.
The top of the church tower offers a beautiful 360 degree view of the city and the surrounding landscape. I didn’t realize how much more intense the sunlight would be that far north, and I loved how much the buildings popped out against all the blue from the sky and the ocean.
After checking out the cathedral, we continued down to the Harpa Concert Hall and the Sun Voyager.
Around lunch we stopped at Jamie’s Italian. I really didn’t expect to find good Italian in Iceland, but the food here was delicious [and there were no steamed sheep heads to be found 🙂 ].
After lunch we wandered across the street over to Reykjavik’s oldest church [Domkirkjan], City Hall, and Reykjavikurtjorn which is the city’s pond.
Last on our list was the Old Harbor [which turned out to be a bit disappointing]. I assumed we would find some cute shops and adorable fishing boats but as it turned out, it was mostly whale watching kiosks and industrial ships. Needless to say, we didn’t stay very long.
If all you want to do is get a taste of Iceland, I think what we did is perfect. Reykjavik is very small, and we were able to see most [if not all] of the city’s highlights in a day. Even though I would love to go back one day and see more of the landscape, I do feel like I was able to cross it off my bucket list.