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Iceland 

Reykjavik - 2 days, 3 nights 

A few years ago, I decided to take my kids out of school and homeschool them... well, world school them... for a year. It was sort of an out of the blue, hare-brained idea that struck me as potentially amazing, slightly terrifying, and if nothing else... entirely memorable. It was all of the above, though mostly amazing. 

Our first adventure was Iceland. And truly, I cannot think of a better way to start a year of magical exploration than driving around "The Land of Fire and Ice." 

We started our trip in Reykjavik, after a fairly quick flight from New York. We stayed in an Airbnb in the capital city and spent two days exploring as much as we could. Some of the city's highlights were: 

  • The Blue Lagoon. Is it touristy? Yes. Should you still go? Absolutely. 

  • Thingvellir National Park. Where the North American and European plates meet. 

  • Hallgrímskirkja. The largest church in Iceland with a beautiful view of the city from the top. 

  • Harpa Concert Hall. This modern architecture houses the national opera and symphony. 

Great food we ate in Reykjavik:

  • Baejarins Betzu Pylsur. We ate here when we landed in the middle of the night. It's known as Iceland's best hot dog stand. It did not disappoint, though beware that at that late hour you are bound to see some locals who have been over served at nearby bars staggering around. 

  • Bergsson Mathus. Delicious little lunch place to warm your bones. 

  • Fiskmarkadurinn. This was a beautiful and exquisite meal. It was a little sad to see whale and horse on the menu, but at least we didn't order it. 

  • Pizza With No Name. Yes, that is literally the name. We went after we had a huge day of exploring Thingvellir and the Blue Lagoon. We were exhausted and the pizza was delicious. 

  • Braud & Co. I have been dreaming about the cinnamon rolls here for three years now. They are extraordinary. 

  • Reykjavik Roasters. The best coffee in town, conveniently located near Braud and Co. 

Road Trip- 6 nights 

We figured if we were going to Iceland, we might as well see the country. No quick stopover with a trip to the Golden Circle before heading to Paris for us. We set out to complete a full lap of the country. After a few nights in Reykjavik, we headed south on the famed Ring Road in our red Jeep.

Driving around Iceland's Ring Road was at times frightening (ie: single lane bridges where you had to trust the oncoming driver), sometimes long (ie: the stretch along the eastern fjords from Hofn to Egillstadir), but always full of surprises and jaw-dropping beauty. One piece of advice I read and would absolutely agree with is... if you see cars parked along the road, there is usually something cool worth stopping to explore. 

Day One: Reykjavik to Vik 

Highlights included:

Skogafoss Waterfall. You can hike around and behind this waterfall. 

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. Be prepared for some major rainbow sightings. 

Reynisfjara. Otherworldly black sand beaches.

Little elfin huts along the road that are worth a closer look. 

Where we stayed:

Icelandair Hotel Vik. This was in 2016, so I assume there are new additions to the hotel scene, but this was a wonderful place to land after a big day of hopping in and out of the car looking at all the wonders of the area. 

Where we ate:

Sudurvik- a very long wait for our tired crew, but very much worth it!

Day Two: Vik to Hofn

Highlights included:

Vatnajokull Glacier. We took a tour of the glacier, which was thankfully rescheduled when we realized it was going to take us longer to get from Vik to the glacier than expected. Not to mention we needed to do our first fill up at the gas station and that really set us back!

Jökulsárlón. This is the glacier bay that you've seen photos of and it is every bit as beautiful as you would expect. We got there at sunset and it was pretty much empty. 

Where we stayed:

Lonid Apartments. This does not have curb appeal, but is a great little road side gem. It is conveniently located near a grocery store, which is nice for replenishing your road trip snacks. 

Where we ate:

Pakkus. This sweet little restaurant serves delicious food in the fishing village. 

Day Three: Hofn to Egilsstadir

This was the most dull stretch of our trip. Navigating the fjords was exhausting and seemingly never-ending. Unfortunately I don't know that there is another way to get to the north, so for that reason it was worth it. We stayed in an Airbnb in Egilsstadir, which was clean and warm, but otherwise unremarkable. We ate dinner at a not-so-good place in town. All in all, it was nice to stop after that long stretch of driving, but besides that I recommend you move along as soon as you can because it gets awesome again real soon.

Day Four: Egilsstadir to Myvatn

Thankfully the driving is minimal on this stretch and the landscape becomes otherworldly. 

Highlights included:

Krafla. Crazy steaming lava vents and fields.

Hvervir. Unpleasant smell of sulfur aside, these gurgling mud pits are an incredible view of the "fire" of Iceland. 

Crater Lake. Beautiful colored lake. 

Grjotagja Cave. I guess this would be more exciting if I had ever seen Game of Thrones. 

Myvatn Nature Baths. The other Blue Lagoon, but without the crowds. 

Where we stayed:

This wasn't a memorable place and in fact, I have lost the name entirely. But the good news is that nothing in this country is that bad. 

Where we ate:

Vogafjós Farm restaurant. Stay here if you can. We loved the restaurant and I'm sure it would be a really fun experience to stay here as well. 

Day Five: Myvatn to Akureyri

This is another light driving day and you are going to the other "big" city in Iceland. We loved it and wouldn't have minded staying for a few nights. 

Highlights included:

Godafoss Waterfall. Known as Waterfall of the gods. It is extraordinary. 

Wandering around the town. 

Where we stayed:

Saeluhus. These little houses are so cute and comfortable. I especially liked the fact that there was finally a washer/ dryer to use!

Where we ate:

Kaffi Ilmur. We loved it so much we ate there two days in a row. 

We got take away sushi from Rub 23 for dinner and it was nice to relax in our cute house. 

Brynja Ice Cream. I have been dreaming about the chocolate dipped soft serve from here ever since we ate here. 

Day Six: Akureyri to Borgarnes

Highlights included:

Lava Cave Tour. Slightly harrowing and very dark in the depths, but definitely worth the stop on this last stretch of road.

This was such a cute little town to finish our tour of Iceland. It isn't too far from Akureyri and it's not far from the Reykjavik airport. We didn't spend too much time exploring the area, but we had a delicious last dinner at The Settlement Center. Again horse was on the menu, but such is life in Iceland. 

Truly this is a magical land. It is so full of natural beauty, incredibly kind people, and adventure. We loved every minute of it. 

Pro Tip: 

Just because you can go for really long stretches on the Ring Road without seeing anyone doesn't mean there aren't cops looking for speeding tourists. My husband found that out the hard way. Luckily, settling up your ticket isn't difficult to do at the airport.