Hello! I haven’t seen you guys since last year!
Hope you all had a restful holiday break (I sure did!), and that you’re sticking to your resolutions! I’m not one to make resolutions, but this year I’d like to stop biting my nails. This has been a goal of mine for almost THREE DECADES, and I almost achieved it last year – then proceeded to gnaw at my fingernails an hour before midnight. I went ahead and purchased Mavala Stop, which according to reviews is supposed to taste awful, so we’ll see what the new year brings!
When I last checked in with you, I was in Icelandic horse heaven, and hearing enchanted (but mostly weird) tales of trolls and elves. Today you’ll hear all about the remainder of our trip, from the bright blue ice caves, to the black sand beach.
Where We Laid Our Heads To sleep:
We stayed in a private room at the Vesturhus Hostel. It had two shared bathrooms, kitchen and living areas. Our housemates were all young, and easy-going, so we had no issues during our stay.
The hostel is located in a very small farming town named Hof. I cannot stress how small this town is. The closest supermarkets are over an hour away – each way! Hilariously enough, Halston and I wanted to stay in Höfn, a fishing town located an hour away, but I mistakenly booked this hostel, thinking it was the same town. It ended up working out in the end because we were closer to the attractions, but we were on our own when it came down to figuring out where to eat.
Like I mentioned on past posts, we made sure to stop at the supermarket numerous times throughout the trip should the occasion arise where I booked a hostel in the middle of nowhere and we had no access to food. Oh, wait…
- Kaffiterían Skaftafelli, the cafeteria at Skaftafell National Park
- We grabbed lunch at what might possibly be the only gas station in the world with a 4-star rating for dining on Google. The Veitingasala Restaurant, Shop, And Gas, is exactly that – a restaurant, shop, and gas station, in the Middle-Of-Nowhere-Hof, Iceland. The restaurant was teeming with families, who like us, were searching for the warmth, lamb burgers and WiFi. Following our feast, we grabbed cheese and cured meats for a fancy charcuterie board dinner later on (ballin’ on a budget!).
- Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon was our favorite! The modern, contemporary hotel was located 10 minutes from our hostel, so we were able to stop by for happy hour twice, and it is where we celebrated Thanksgiving. Halston ordered the Farmer’s Feast, and I ordered the Fisherman’s Feast, which were both three-course meals. And if you’re wondering, yes, we both experienced the post-Thanksgiving food-coma, and considered unzipping our clothes while at the restaurant because we could not breathe.
- We encountered a herd of reindeer on our way to Hof, and were too shocked to function/take a decent picture of them. We also saw hundreds of swans out in the wild!
- We visited Diamond Beach, a black volcanic sand beach where icebergs from the nearby glacier lagoon drift ashore. The glaciers were so massive and impressive, that we had to visit twice! It is not hard to miss, as there are tons of cars and tourists parked by the beach, but we actually enjoyed walking from the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon to the other side of Diamond Beach because it was less crowded. All you have to do is walk under the bridge and the beach is there.
- Skaftafell National Park is where I quickly became very self-aware as to how out of shape I am (rectifying this should really be a resolution of mine), because I wanted to pass out the moment we began hiking up the mountain (even sadder was the fact that it was a very easy hike). And while I complained the majority of the hour-long hike, the breathtaking waterfall views were worth the struggle.
- According to Instagram influencers, Icelandic ice cave tours are all the rage when visiting the country, so of course we had to book an excursion with Local Guide of Vatnajokull. The tour company has been in business since 1991, and it is the oldest company giving tours in the area. Local Guide actually scouts out and maintains the ice caves which other tour companies include on their tours, so we knew we were getting the real deal. Our tour group met at the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon (by Diamond Beach), and traveled to a glacier about 45 minutes away, where we were outfitted with protective headgear and crampons, (hahaha) to improve our mobility on the ice. From there, another shuttle with snow chains picked us up and drove over the glacier and to the ice cave. The entrance of the ice cave itself was very anti-climatic, but once we were inside, it took everything in me to not belt out a “Let It Go” sequence. Similar to Queen Elsa’s ice palace, the ice inside the cave was bright blue – a surreal landscape unlike any other. We shuffled our way across the short cave in about 20 minutes, and emerged back outside, where the shuttle awaited us.
- On our last day, we decided to squeeze in two stops on our drive to the airport, which was about five hours long. Our first stop was the Reynisfajara Black Sand Beach with its towering basalt columns and black sand (duh), and the abandoned plane. In 1973, a U.S. Navy plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the beach, and the wreckage has never been cleared up. Oh, and everyone survived, in case you were wondering. The trek to the plane was a two-mile walk each way, which we powered through as we had our own flight to catch!
Visiting Iceland still feels like a dream to me – I can’t believe we actually did it! It awoke a sense of wanting to explore more of the world, and we hope to travel internationally with more frequency in the future. For now, we’ll be sticking close to home, with our first travel destination being Washington, DC in the spring. Can’t wait!