Searching for an affordable but unforgettable short vacation? Look no further than beautiful Iceland!
Iceland, renown as the land of fire and ice, is now more accessible than ever. With frequent and inexpensive flights departing from both Europe and the USA, there’s no excuse for not visiting this incredible country. With its varied alien terrains and incredible geographic features, Iceland should definitely be a destination on your bucket list.
You could easily spend two weeks making your way around this exceptional island exploring all that it has to offer. However, if you do not have the luxury of time on your hands fear not – you can still see a considerable amount of Iceland in just a few short days! Numerous tour companies have popped up over the past few years, offering day excursions to some of the islands most exciting sights.
My favourite tour company in Iceland is Your Day Tours. It is a family-run company which offer tours of both the Golden Circle and the South Island. The groups are small and the guides are not only friendly and informative, but they could quite possibly also make a living on the side as comedians – Icelandic people have a fantastic sense of humour! It’s also worth noting that almost all tour companies will take you to the same sights for around the same price – don’t fret if you can’t book a tour with this company, just do a quick Google search for a range of alternatives or take a look on Viator.com.
So – if you’re up for a fast-paced, adventure holiday read on! Below I’ve outlined the best way to structure a short break to Iceland.
DAY 1: GOLDEN CIRCLE TOUR AND NORTHERN LIGHTS TOUR
Plan to arrive in Iceland the night before and be ready to start bright and early the next day. This first ‘Golden Circle’ tour sets off at 8AM and will return you to your hotel around 4PM. You will stop at all the main sights along the Golden Circle, including:
Faxi waterfall: Faxi is a rugged, wide waterfall not far outside of Reykjavik.
Þingvellir National Park: A historical and geological wonder where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimetres per year.
Geysir Geothermal Area: Here you will witness the Strokkur geyser shoot a column of water up to 30 metres into the air.
Gullfoss (‘Golden Falls’) Waterfall: The Golden Falls is a waterfall created by the river Hvítá which tumbles and plunges into a crevice some 32m deep.
Your guide will also get you to taste test a few delicious local delicacies along the way and play some popular Icelandic music in the mini bus!
Make sure you get a few hours rest after your tour, because tonight you’re chasing some northern lights! Reykjavik Excursions is a main northern lights tour provider and allows you to come out with them each night until you witness the phenomenon. I recommend doing this tour on the first night you arrive as, unfortunately, it might take two or three nights of trying before you see any lights! If that’s the case, get ready for minimal sleep, as the tour starts at 10PM and returns around 2:30AM…
DAY 2: SOUTH ISLAND TOUR
This was by far my favorite of the two tours and hence why I recommend doing it second! If you want to see the true Iceland, the south coast of the country is the place to be. Magnificent waterfalls, black sand beaches, puffins, glaciers, volcanos and typical Icelandic farms are all things you will get to see in this 10 hour tour. Starting again at 8AM, you will see:
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall: Have ever walked behind a waterfall? Well you’re about to in this gigantic waterfall!
Sólheimajökull Glacier: This is an incredible 11-km-long outlet glacier which you can ice climb on!
Reynisfjara: The black sand beach is an eerie and spectacular beach – you might see some adorable puffins if you’re lucky!
During the tour you also get to see from afar the amazing Eyjafjallajökull Volcano – a volcano that had an eruption in 2010 that put the worlds flights on hold.
Again, you will get to taste test a few delicious local delicacies and, if your guide thinks you’re making good time, he might make up to three extra stops during the day (to see troll houses and extra waterfalls!). If you had no luck catching the northern lights on your first night in Iceland, it’s time to try your luck again tonight.
DAY 3: REYKJAVIK AND BLUE LAGOON
It’s your final day and a perfect day to take it easy after two busy days of touring and northern light spotting. This is the perfect time to explore the cute, sleepy capital of Iceland, Reykjavik.
Start with coffee and a light breakfast at Reykjavik Roasters, before making your way to Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran parish church that is among one of the highest structures in Iceland. For 800 ISK (approx. US$6) you can catch an elevator to the top of the church and see the best view in town. Soak up the colorful houses, blue water and mountains in the distance.
Next take a stroll down the bustling shopping street Laugavegur, stopping in at Gló café for a delicious and healthy (…and huge!) lunch special. Stroll along the lovely city lake Tjörnin, before making your way over to the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre by the water. This is an impressive building where you can admire the modern architecture both inside and out. Finish off your walking tour by visiting the Sólfarið (‘Sun Voyager’) sculpture, before returning to your hotel to pick up your luggage and get ready for your trip to the Blue Lagoon.
It’s important to pre-book a time slot at the Blue Lagoon and select the airport transfer package – this is the perfect way to end your trip before making your way home! The Blue Lagoon is a curious geothermal spa located on an old lava field in Grindavik. It is surrounded by black lava stones and filled with blue, mineral-rich water, and is considered one of the 25 wonders of the world! I recommend booking this package as early as possible as time slots sell out quickly.
Every guest of the lagoon gets a locker to store their belongings in (however, I note that the locker only holds carry-on sized luggage). The cheapest entry to the lagoon includes a free mud mask from the ‘Mud Bar’ and you can order drinks on your electronic entrance armband once in the water. It is a very unique experience, however I warn travelers that this place gets busy – very busy. Don’t expect a quiet, relaxed spa experience by any means, but the uniqueness of this place certainly makes up for it. You also need to be okay with the idea of your skin smelling a little eggy… but rest assured, the smell fades quickly.
Finish up your day at the spa with a warm shower and hop on your allocated transfer bus straight to the airport!
TOP ICELAND TIPS:
- Do not worry about what season you go in or what the weather will be like. Iceland is one of the few places in the world that can be appreciated at any time of year and in any conditions.
- Do not catch a taxi from the airport to Reykjavik – this is extremely expensive! The airport is a considerable distance from the city and taxis are not common. Instead, book a bus transfer through FlyBus or Gray Line.
- Try book most of your tours in advance – Iceland has become an extremely popular tourist destination and spots for activities, such as the Blue Lagoon, sell out very quickly.
- If you have time for a longer trip, book a car and do the Ring Road at your own pace. This road will take you to even more amazing and outrages locations around Iceland.
As Maria of Team Iceland explains to Coach Bombay over ice cream in The Mighty Ducks II: “Greenland is covered with ice, and Iceland is very nice!”… Now go see if for yourself!
Have you been to Iceland? Please share your experience in the comments below!
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By We Are Travel Girls Contributor Emilia Drozda
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