48 Hours in Iceland
Iceland is truly a magical place that makes you feel like you have left earth and landed on another planet. My trip to iceland was a last minute add on from our trip to Spain. We had found some amazing flight deals to Europe on Iceland Air with a small layover in Iceland and when we found out that we could change that layover into a “stop over” without the price of our flight changing, we knew we had to tack on a couple of extra days to see this crazy country. (and now I am in love with Iceland Air)
Although I would have loved to have more time to be able to rent a car and explore this entire island over the next month, we only had 48 hours. We had not done much more planning than our flight and hotel and so our sight seeing was very last minute. Luckily, Iceland makes it extremely easy for you by offering a plethora of exciting bus tours of all kinds.
We opted for the Grey Hound Tour Buses for our two days. We used this amazing company as our roundtrip transport form the airport to our hotel and we also purchased two tours with them; The Golden Circle Tour and The Northern Lights Mystery Tour. These tours were beyond convenient, educational, and over all amazing experiences. Without these tours we would have never been able to see as much as we did over 48 hours.
Our journey began with a Grey Hound Bus ride from Keflavik Airport to our hotel in Reykjavik. We stayed at a great hotel called The Sunna Guesthouse. This hotel lives in a perfectly central location a block away from the Hallgrímskirkja Church and close walking distance of all Reykjavik’s bars, restaurants and attractions.
We really enjoyed this hotel. Our room had two twin beds, while we shared a full kitchen, bathroom and shower with the suite. The suite had one other room in it, but we had the entire suite to ourselves for the weekend. The beauty of this hotel, is that you have the choice between a private room in a shared suite, or if you have a large group or family, you can rent out your own apartment. By far, the most convenient feature to this hotel is the free breakfast buffet in the morning. There was so much to choose from and it saved us a lot of time and money in the morning. They even have picnic to-go lunches that you can purchase for your daily adventures.
A great spot nearby the hotel for some great food or just some quick delicious coffee, is Loki Cafe. Located on the second floor, across the street form the Hallgrímskirkja Church, this little cafe is a great stop along the way for some traditional Icelandic food!
We continued our day exploring the city of Reykjavik. Just walking around, there is so much art, culture and impressive graffiti to discover.
Across the way from this badass mural above was a great little burger spot called Block Burger. Truth be told, we stumbled into this place because we were starving, running out of money and desperate and being from New York, I saw a logo that looked like Shake Shack and ran to it. To our surprise it ended up being one of the best burgers we had ever had and affordable (for Iceland). Next time I go back to Iceland I will for sure be stoping bak into this burger joint.
We also did some well needed shopping in the heart of the city at some of their many local boutiques and stocked up on some warm clothes for our tours to come.
After doing some shopping we stopped into Bjarni Fel Sportswear for a few Icelandic local beers. (which were delicious AF.) They had some really awesome food and drink specials and a really great laid back and comfortable vibe. This bar is also located near a bunch of others making it a very convenient spot to start for bar hopping.
We finished out night off right with a gourmet meal at Apotek. This restaurant may have been on the pricy side (as most food is in iceland) however is was damn worth it. Everything we ordered was not only delicious but beautifully presented. Their cocktails are reason alone to visit this place but the ambiance for sure makes you stay. You can find items of all kinds on this menu including some more adventurous options like minke whale and puffin. This establishment was an experience that we were happy we took a chance on.
The next morning we woke up at the ass crack of dawn for our first excursion: The Golden Circle Tour. The greatest thing about these bus tours is that there is a smaller shuttle bus that picks you up from your hotel and brings you to the bus terminal for your tour and drops you back off at your hotel after.
Everything in iceland is a bit spread out and so it requires a lot of driving. I would say the golden circle tour took us anywhere form 8-10 hours making it totally worth the price. There is nothing boring about the drive though, I actually got some of my best photos on the drives and you really get to see a lot of the island.
First stop: Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National park is located on the northern shore of lake Þingvallavatn, the largest lake in iceland. The significance of this park is not only its beautiful hikes and waterfalls, but the fact that it is located on the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This was an amazing hike followed by me climbing some ice covered rocks so that I could get up close and personal with the parks awe inspiring waterfall.
On to the next stop!…
Second Stop: Gulfoss
This waterfall is f*cking crazy. You just can’t stop taking pictures of it because every photo you take, looks fake. It is so beyond breathtaking, I felt like I could stare at it all day, but the tour keeps you on a time limit. (which is good because I would probably still be there now if they didn’t make me leave) It is truly a sight to be seen and on a sunny day you can see a rainbow through the mist of the falls. [pictured below]
Third Stop: The Geysir and Hot Springs
The hot springs are an interesting sight. As you walk through the grounds of hot pools toward the Strokkur Geysir, you can hear your surroundings boiling. If you wanted to, you could also look into helping a chef bake rye bread or boil an egg under these hot grounds. The main event of this location is by far the Strokkur Geysir which erupts every 5 to 10 mins making it easy to witness several times during your visit. Make sure to stand in the opposite direction of the wind though, unless you want to get hit with the sulphur fog and drenched in hot water.
After this last stop, on our way home we stopped to meet some of iceland famous miniature horses and then went back to our hotel to eat, change and get ready for our next tour; The Northern Lights Mystery Tour. This tour scooped us up around 9pm about 2 hours before the sunset there. We drove far far out into the open land where there was no light pollution from nearby cities. If you decide to take this tour, make sure to bring food and water with you (unless you want to purchase at the one pitstop in the middle of the tour) because the tour could last until 3 or 4 in the morning depending on how exposed the northern lights are that night. Because we went at the beginning of April, we were at the end of Aurora Borealis season and there was a good chance we wouldn’t see anything. This was the last tour they were letting go out for the season and on this beautifully clear night…we got quite the show. Unfortunately this was before I had any knowledge about photography and I learned the hard way that your iPhone will not suffice for the colorful goodness of the northern lights, although I still tried…and then over saturated a terrible photo below to try to show you, haha. Next time the Sony will come with me and a promise of better photos of this magical moment.
All I can say is, I wish we had more time and I will absolutely be back again to explore this amazing place.
I hope this inspires you to visit or helps you with your planning!
Have any favorite places in Iceland that you have visited or plan on visiting?
I would love to hear from you.