In case you missed the major WOW airlines news this morning, they have ceased operation. “All WOW AIR flights have been cancelled.” – WOW website. But what does this mean for WOW passengers?
Well, it means they are stuck. Because of the lack of service and funding WOW is crazy enough not responsible to get people home. It may sound shocking, but this is truly the case for many (if not all) airlines. Luckily most airlines are willing to pick up the slack. IcelandAir is offering discounted rates to WOW Air customers as long as they fill out a form first. It is on a first come first serve basis, but they are cheap and thankfully assisting these poor stranded travelers.
According to The New York Times, “Wow Air’s financial struggles had been a source of concern in Iceland. The finance minister said contingency plans were in place if the airline collapsed, including assistance for stranded passengers, but added that the government would not rescue the airline, according to local news reports.” Iceland has less than 400,000 people, but over 2.2 million visited last year alone. This was mainly due to the fact that tourism to the country was increased because of free layovers, up to 7 days. This gave may travelers an opportunity to explore a country they may not have planned for in the past, it gave them a 2-for-1 shot on their cross Atlantic flights.
They grew, but they grew too quickly. Expanding at an extremely quick pace set them up for unsustainable productivity. At one point WOW had 47 destinations for its fleet of 20 aircraft. However, by November of 2018 the fleet was starting to shrink and with it destinations. The US went from 15 destinations to 4. Initially blaming mechanical issues, the routes were canceled shortly after that announcement.
Europe also was loosing destinations, but people continued to buy tickets. WOW was struggling way back in early 2018 with higher fuel prices that led to a loss of $33.7 billion dollars through September of 2018. Their appeal, cheap tickets and nickle and diming of perks (bags, seats, food) allowed many people to fulfill their desire to explore another country. But none of this was enough to save the ill-fated WOW Air.
They shuttered their doors on 3/28/19 – and while it leaves many unemployed, many stranded – the big question remains what will the impact to the Icelandic economy be? Will another airline be able to pick up the economic slack of this loss for the country or will we see another recession hit Iceland a mere 11 years after the devastation in 2008.
Today was our final day in Iceland. We started the day off with breakfast on the top floor of our hotel. The bread in this country is just amazing. Always so light and fluffy, full of flavor. After breakfast we headed out for our last little excursion – a trip to the city’s church (Hallgrimskirkja)
Apparently Christianity has been around for like ever on Iceland. However, while 90% or so of the island is Christian (mostly Lutheran) there are not that many religious people and about 55% of the island believes in elves, so take all these numbers with a grain of salt. Anyway, this church was started back in the mid 40s and finished mid 80s. So this church, Hallgrimskirkja is a Lutheran church – interesting style and made to stand out.
It has a HUGE organ and to me the outside of the building also looks like a weird organ. You can take an elevator ride up to the top floor (level 6) and then walk up 2 flights of stairs to the clock tower. From there you get a beautiful view of the city. It was something like $9.
We were greeted at the top of the church with a wonderfully powerful wind storm outside. We were watching the freezing rain whip and whirl, people hustling and trying to protect themselves from the crazy weather. We headed down after checking out the views and attempted to head out of the church. The wind was strong enough to move you. Strong enough to make you second guess how much you should be pushing against it. And then BOOM, it was gone. So we moved quickly to get down a street to get a bit more protection from the wind.
By this time we realized we needed to eat again before our flights, but that we werent hungry. So option 2 – go pack. We headed back to the hotel to pack up our belongings. After what seemed like far too long to take to pack, we headed out to lunch. The expert she is, Lauren was able to find us another vegan hot dog place. And once again, it did NOT disappoint. It wasnt served on a bun, but instead with some roasted root vegetables and micro greens. I loved it. Lauren was able to get a final Icelandic beer before we headed out. So we left full, happy and relaxed (or as much as one can be….)
We walked back to the hotel and grabbed our things, checked out (cuz you still gotta do that here) and hit the road to the airport. KEF is about 45 minutes from downtown Reykjavik and we also needed to get gas and return our rental car. So first of course, find gas. They had two stations within minutes of the airport, so I picked the closer of the two to our destination. What I have learned about Iceland and their fuel pumps is that they are not reliable. Today the issue was with the internet connection. Both times Ive had an issue with a pump its been an extremely windy day. Regardless of the reasons, I had to venture to the other gas station. I fueled up one last time and headed to Ace-Rent-A-Car to drop our little car off. This is when we found out Lauren’s flight was over an hour delayed.
Once at the airport we parted ways to check our bags and we were supposed to meet back up by Lauren’s bag check area, but apparently that was not at the actual WOW airlines desk. I should back track a bit….Lauren is flying WOW air to Boston. WOW air is currently trying to avoid shutting down. We have been hearing rumors that no one will be bailing them out and you will be stuck if they shut down. So last night Lauren found another flight as back up on IcelandAir if WOW was to go out of business before her flight.
Ok, back to the story. So I checked in and went to the WOW desk and there was no Lauren. So I waited a minute, went and did my tax free paperwork and then went back to WOW. Still, no Lauren. So I sent her an email and headed up through security. I got a special “fast track” line because of my upgrade on IcelandAir. Didnt do me much good because they pulled all my stuff off to be checked. I was waiting and watching for Lauren – and all of a sudden there she was, on the other side of security! We met back up and hit the Duty Free shop. No wine gums could be found in said Duty Free.
We walked around the airport a bit, and I went to see if I could bring a guest to the lounge, but no such luck. While I was upstairs Lauren got an email from WOW asking them to come to the gate in an attempt to beat the weather they were going to try and board and leave as early as possible (while still being delayed). They assigned her gate and off she went! I headed back up to the lounge to gab some snacks and a 7up before the flight.
When they assigned my gate I headed out, still needing to hit passport control. When I got downstairs, apparently every person in Iceland was also hitting passport control. We weaved and weaved and weaved. But it was so fast. They are just so relaxed here, its a nice change from the States. I walked to my gate and they basically started the check in process right away. I hopped in line, and got on the plane. And I have NO ONE next to me, tons of leg room and a fancy meal coming my way shortly!
I had an amazing time exploring Iceland with Lauren – we did so much laughing, it was like we worked out! We’ve already set up our google doc for our next trip – so be on the lookout for the next L&L adventure! Before that adventure I will be hitting up Maui, Hawaii in April, an Alaskan cruise in July and have decisions to make about the fall!! Safe travels everyone!
Ok, so DRAMA!! About 3 hours into my flight there was some bustling around happening a few rows in front of me. Of course, being a nosy Nelly I had to do my best to get all the info. This lady seemed drunk and was basically yelling “Im going to hijack the plane” and then rambling things I couldnt hear in my seat. It was about 15 minutes of scuffle before the 5 flight attendants were able to get her to walk back into coach and put her in a row all on her own. At this point she was handcuffed!! They then proceeded to strap her down to her seat, legs, chest, etc; while she remained handcuffed behind her back. She continued yelling for a bit and even said “Im fine, this happens sometimes, this has happened before.” Needless to say it made for an interesting hour or so of chatting about it up in front.
When we landed the EMS, Fire and Police came on board, a police officer said “No one on this plane is getting off.” So everyone sat back down. It was about 20 minutes of talking to her and negotiating with her to get her off the plane. We then had to wait about another 10 minutes before they let us disembark. The poor father who had to deal with all the drama, he got police escorted through customs, passport control and luggage area. Other passengers were getting upset over the fact that passport control was taking longer than they wanted it to, even calling out minorities as non-Americans in the US passport line (they were all Americans, by the way). Happy to have gotten in my Uber and hit the road home!
Looking to head to Iceland – to see what the hype is all about? Here are some things you should keep in mind!
Almost everyone speaks English (but you should get the Google Translate App just in case to read signs, packaging, instructions, etc)
They take American Express! Random fact, but it can be difficult to find an Amex accept-er outside the US. And here they take it! (Check your credit cards and debit cards to see who has the best/lowest international transaction fees)
Their gas stations only take debit card or cash – or a credit card with a pin! Many gas stations are unmanned, but the system is pretty much self explanatory. Keep in mind, it works exactly like the US – it verifies you have enough to cover a FULL tank (or you can pick a smaller set amount) and then you only actually pay what you use.
Many gas stations have a grocery store or restaurant in the parking lot or very near. Utilize them! Food is very expensive here – your best bet is to stock up on snacks and food that you can cook at your Airbnb or Hostel.
Bringing your own reusable bags will come in handy as well. Iceland is actually very green (reusable energy, recycling, minimal waste, etc) Lauren recommends these. They are silicon, water resistant (think phone in wet situations), and perfect for holding sandwiches, oatmeal (bowl on the run), cut veggies, etc. They also take up like no room in your luggage to get here!
The weather really can change every 5 minutes. It may sound crazy, but the weather there can be unpredictable and random. From snow to sleet to rain to sun – expect it all and expect it all in an hour.
Bring gloves in the winter – the amount of times your hands spend out them taking pictures is almost equal to the amount of time your hands are in them – but your little fingers will thank you for the warmth.
Get out of Reykjavik. In most cases its actually cheaper to rent a car than to take the day tours out of the city. There is so much more to see outside of the city (like the rest of the entire island) so get out and explore the hidden gems of this beautiful country.
If you rent the car, get at least the gravel protection – they offer a million different plans, but the gravel protection is the most useful. This is especially true if you go North in the country.
Make a list of the things you want to see and on your way to see them you will end up seeing even more than you planned. Be prepared to have your plans altered due to weather.
Many of the attractions here are free – unless you do a tour – so take advantage of that and see all you can!
Unless you do tours, I would recommend about $75-100 a day for budgeting purposes once you are on your trip. You will probably come home with money (unless you drink a lot or do tours) but this would cover food, gas and souvenirs.
I would budget about $50-100/night for housing. Using Airbnb gives you options – but if you are traveling solo you are looking at $100-150/night for Airbnbs. In that case I would use hostels (they have many) to save some cash. If you can really splurge on your trip stay at FossHotels – primo properties with modern flare!
You can really only find true more, American style hotels in Reykjavik – otherwise they are more like guest houses. They may call themselves hotels – but they may only be 6-8 room quarters, some you even have communal WC.
Stores close pretty early here, usually between 6-7pm. Restaurants are open later usually until about 10pm. If you want groceries or to shop, get out early!
No need to tip! Another nice benefit of leaving the US is not needing to tip – there is a service charge in your price, so just swipe, sign and walk!
Stand up! Ok, ok, I cant take credit for that amazing joke – and Im sure our guide cant either – but it was hilarious and I loved it, so I had to share!
Lets get into today! Let me start by saying I slept like a rock – I dont know how or why, but my body clearly needed sleep. I even slept through Lauren’s alarm! It was our last Airbnb and last place with a kitchen so Lauren made herself some oatmeal and enjoyed her breakfast before we hit the road. We packed up and headed to this like Viking ship looking building. (we thought it was a church, but still dont know for sure). Snapped a picture this odd building and decided to head down to the little downtown area of Stykkisholmur. Turns out there isnt much there at all! We parked and attempted to find cute little stores, but they dont exist there! Its a fishing village looking place and not much else. Disappointed we headed out of town toward, YARNVILLE! (Alafoss)
Today was a day all about Lauren and her happy places. But first, we had to stop a water fall and cross under water in a tunnel – and that was like of course an awesome thing that I nerded out over. It was a 6km tunnel that was built to cut down on travel time from the north, used to be a toll road, but now its free!! (woohoo!!)
When we arrived at Alafoss Lauren was giddy. This place is like her heaven. The store is all things wool and yarn – and we saw everything! Lauren got her wool fix with some bundles (Im sure they have a name for them) to make a sweater, but not before looking at every color and style and texture. She was just lit up with joy!! After she bought enough to get the tax back we walked up the small little hill to check out the rest of the town (only like 50 people live there) but there wasnt much else to see.
After Alafoss we headed into Reykjavik. We are staying at a pretty nice hotel tonight and because I am an Orbitz VIP or whatever we got free drinks and entrance into the spa. Could this trip have ended any better?? We checked in and headed to the room to relax for about 30 minutes before heading off to the CityWalk tour. (I would recommend doing a walking tour in ANY city you can!) Our guide Nanna was a true Scandinavian girl – blonde hair and all! She was a great guide, was always loud enough and added plenty of humor. Remember that joke from the beginning, that was Nanna. We learned more history about Iceland that we didnt know and got a nice little tour of the city. After our walk we headed to dinner.
On our way to dinner, we ran into Lauren’s second happiest place – a Christmas shop! She likes ornaments for her Christmas tree. So we stopped in to get her one! And I got Bill an elf named Hugo! (by the by, I dont buy souvenirs for people!) But he asked about the elves so I got him one.
And finally we arrived at our dinner local. Lauren had done some research to find a vegan hot dog place. It should be noted that the Icelanders LOVE hot dogs. In fact most things close early (like 7, restaurants 10) but the hot dog stands stay open well into the night, closing at 1am. Anyway, back to the vegan hot dog. This place was like a cafeteria, but high end. We proceeded to order (2) vegan hot dogs (they come with cronions, mustard, ketchup, pickles, and some secret sauce thing), a side of smooshed potatoes and grilled sourdough bread with herbed butter. And it was DIVINE!! Like so good!! Who knew pickles would add so much and who knew a VEGAN hot dog could be so good!! I am NOT a vegan, but I dont eat red meat or pork – or anything, so hot dogs arent something Ive had in YEARS. But today I had one and it was just so lovely. Our waitress was from Colorado who had met her boyfriend while studying abroad in Prague and moved here to be with him. We learned a whole lot of random things about her and very much enjoyed hearing about life here.
After dinner we headed out to find some ice cream. I had heard it was good and they werent kidding. Lauren was even able to get vegan sorbet. I got white chocolate and toblerone – Lauren got passion fruit and strawberry. All were amazing and didnt disappoint. We took our ice cream and walked to the concert hall that Reykjavik finished in 2011. Its a pretty cool looking building sitting on the water front and was meant as a tour attraction for their new tourism push starting that same year.
We finished the night with (free) drinks in the top floor bar (woohoo for VIP). Lauren got the two free drinks and I got a Sprite. Basically like $50 worth of drinks for $4 (woohoo for VIP, again!). After our beverages we headed down to the room to change and hit the SPA!! It of course involved robes and slippers, a hot tub and sauna. We enjoyed our time, talked to some Americans who loved to embarrass their 15 year old son who wasnt even there.
Sad to say tomorrow is our last day in this beautiful country – but we are already planning our next trip for next May…where will we go next??
I finished my blog last night around midnight. I decided to get the cameras ready for what I hoped to be a viewing of the Northern Lights. Our location was spot on, up above the city, not too many lights around, and nothing too big in our way. I wanted to set up the GoPro to capture what I could via time lapse (I still dont know if this worked, it took TONS of pictures). While I was outside setting up the GoPro, I heard some people talking and looked up and noticed what at first I thought were whispy clouds – and then I realized they were turning light green and were in fact THE NORTHERN LIGHTS!
I ran into the cabin to wake Lauren – “Wake Up!” Nothing. “Wake Up!!” Nothing. “Buddy, wake UP!! The Lights!!” She finally woke up, we bundled up, I grabbed the camera and we went outside to see the light show!! It was pretty vibrant at first – but it faded pretty quickly. I think I spent about 35 minutes outside watching the show and attempting to snap some pictures of the party! The main picture on this page was actually taken by my Google Pixel 2 – Google for the win! I also set up my Nikon D3400 with a 18-55mm lens at first and then switched to my fisheye 8mm lens.
This morning we slept in as much as we could and then Lauren started making us lunch for our road trip today. The drive is only about 2.5 hours to the next Airbnb, but you can never have enough road trip food!
Our first stop was the seal museum. It was like $10/person for this tiny little hole in the wall museum – but they also do research, so the money was worth it. We learned a lot about seals and how they interact and we realized they look like water meerkats and dogs in one. After the museum we headed to the wool factory! I need to say that I keep thinking Im going to see how wool is made, but in reality what you see is what is made with wool. It was pretty cool though and Lauren was in heaven so it was a win.
The worst decision we’ve made….
So it turns out that 2.5 hours is NOT in fact accurate, but that could just be my driving. Let’s start out with the fact we had to backtrack this morning to see this super cool waterfall (Kolugljufur). It was only about 25 minutes, but that should have been our first sign of the day. The road to get to the falls was a gravel road (remember, gravel insurance – today it paid off!). It wasnt far – maybe about 5km on that dirt road, but Lauren was already feeling it! (she gets a bit nervous) These waterfalls were a great find, and we were happy to stop and take a peak at the beauty that this area had to offer.
Next stop on the crazy train was a geothermal bath that has been recently rebuilt after being covered in a mudslide a couple hundred years ago. Turns out, this is the start of our worst decision (yet). To get to said bath we had to drive roughly 1.5 hours (according to google). However, what google failed to tell us was that more than half the drive was on a gravel road. And that our other option was an even worse gravel road. So we turned around got some gas and headed back (we had no idea what we were getting into). The drive was long, hard and FULL of potholes. Im not sure the car ever went over 50kph. I was constantly dodging pothole after pothole and Lauren was constantly wincing with worry. The weather didnt help either because it was raining and windy. So the rain just made the wipers mad with its inconsistency and the windy just made the car mad with its inconsistency.
When we finally arrived at the bath – the look on Lauren’s face was priceless. It was just a small little 10′ diameter rock pool with warm water. Yes, you read that right, warm. It wasnt hot – this cant be qualified as a hot spring or a hot tub. But it was quaint and it was an experience. We parked the car and grabbed our suits. We had to climb a snow covered hill up to the bath and then about 3 meters above the bath was a rustic changing house. We had to slosh down to the bath after we changed to get into the water. It was still raining and it was only so warm. It was here in the bath that Lauren said she wouldnt have come once she saw the road (gravel) but because I didnt hesitate she rolled with it. Neither one of us are quite sure that ride was worth it – other than to tell this story now.
We spent a good 15 minutes in the warm bath (again, NOT hot). We had to slosh back up to the changing cabin and then changed quickly and sloshed back down to the car. It should also be noted we didnt have towels (this place is unmanned) so shirts had to do.
We got back on the road to our Airbnb in Stykkisolmur. It was another 1.5 hours according to google. And once again, it lied. It was a gravel road basically until we pulled into town. And this time it was worse than the first. We were driving cliff side, at a few points I was shocked the road wasnt washed out because of the amount of water flowing over it. We even had a front row seat to some waterfalls! (At this point we shouldnt be proud of that fact, it was scary, but cool.) Once we arrived in town we were able to find our Airbnb very easily.
What we werent able to find was food. this town is very tiny. And tiny doesnt work all the time with a vegan in tow. After two failed restaurant attempts we landed on a “fancy” restaurant in town – and what do you know – VEGAN friendly! it was the perfect place to sit our butts after a long day in the car. (emotionally and physically long, not necessarily time-wise). Lauren had a vegan burger and I got the cod. They of course had amazing sourdough bread and butter and salt (thats a thing). After dinner we headed back to the Airbnb and attempted to use the hot tub – but sadly it didnt not work. So shower and bedtime for very exhausted bonzos!!
Today was the longest of the road trip days, mainly because we had to rearrange our stays and places due to weather (apparently it changes every 5 minutes and that’s no lie). But first, lets review last night….
The Northern Lights website said last night was an active night for the lights and that there was a sliver of time around 3am to scope them out in Hofn. So of course we had to set the alarm and get up and go for a drive at 3am to see if we could see them. We could not. It was cold, dark (duh), icy, and LATE (or I guess early?) Our adventure took all of 30 minutes, but it was exhausting.
Lauren set the alarm for a mean 830am. And once it went off, reality struck that I would be driving for a very long time today. So we quickly got ready, packed up our tiny studio area and hit the road for Hvammstangi (say that three times fast). That was approximately 700km or about 9.5 hours of driving. We essentially started off in the Southeast and ended in the Northwest.
In order to not completely go crazy behind the wheel we made stops along the way (all the snacks) and a stop in the town of Akureyi because we had heard it was a cute little town.
Let me start off by saying Iceland terrain is ever changing and surprising. We felt like we were on Mars at times today, in the Rocky Mountains after a snow storm and most importantly in the middle of nowhere.
We honestly spent most of the day listening to Podcasts and some jams to pass the time. We chatted, laughed, stopped for snacks, laughed, stopped for gas, laughed, stopped for more snacks, tallied up our snacks (thats for a later post), laughed, had quiet time, went through three tunnels in mountains, stopped in Akureyi to adventure for a minute, then got gas and snacks and hit the road to the tiny house.
We saw mountains, snow, snow covered roads, a volcano, frozen lakes, hot springs too hot for humans, crazy rock formations, some trees (really not nearly as many as seemed appropriate for the land space), blue water, a fjord, the ocean, black sand, the sun, clouds, waterfalls, and not very many cars. It was during this extremely long stretch while my service was fading in and out that I found out I was upgraded on my flight home!! Woohoo!! That very long 9-11 hour (I dont remember which) flight will be much more enjoyable!
Yesterday the roads we were on had been closed, same with the day before. We realized today that was a smart decision not to attempt to even make it that far because there was nothing out there. We passed only a handful of towns in the 9.5 hours of driving, and filled up in almost every one of those, just to be on the safe side.
We did a short half mile walking tour in Akureyi to stretch our legs for the final 2.5 hour push to the tiny house. Not too much to see in 30 minutes, but they had cute little houses painted in weird colors and a little town square we were able to see as well. One thing that we keep noticing is the amount of new houses (or at least majorly updated) in all of the places we go. Most houses are now corrugated steal and concrete designs.
We hit the road to Hvammstangi around 530, hoping to make it to our tiny house before dark. And we got here right at 8pm, still daylight out. However, about 20 minutes later it was dark – we couldnt have planned that any better. Our little “cabin” in the woods, isnt really in the woods (Iceland doesnt seem to have many wooded areas) is hopefully going to provide us a spectacular place to see the Northern Lights! It is supposed to be an active night again tonight and the clouds are supposed to clear up by midnight (very soon). Wish us luck!!
We made dinner in the tiny little kitchenette and watched the Amy Schumer special on Netflix – and laughed even more. Our internet is extremely weak (I guess to be expected) so it made watching the special and writing my blog very time consuming tonight. I hope tomorrow we have good news to report with Northern Lights sighting, its basically the only thing left on the bucket list that isnt guaranteed.
Our fancy hotel last night came with a free breakfast – and it was just perfect. We basically got exactly what we wanted. In true “European” fashion we got museli, granola, yogurt, juice, bread, etc. Lauren even had Oat Milk!! Iceland is for sure winning for people with food allergies or food restrictions!
After our great breakfast we packed up the car (surprisingly enough that was still in one piece and NOT covered in feet of snow) and hit the road. Our goal today was to get to Hofn for our Airbnb stay – and of course stop at all the fabulous things along the way.
First stop? Wool factory! Turns out there wasnt much to see, but we did get a view from above it and got to see how the mass produce sweaters and socks.
The grocery store was right next to the wool factory so we grabbed a few more things before we hit the road. In the 45 minutes or so we were in the store and factory it had started to snow again. Apparently Lauren had advised me that this was going to happen (I do not recall this). The snow was coming down at a nice pace and it was kind of windy. But we had to stop at the black sand beach. So, even in the snow and cold and wind we hit the beach!
After collecting some black sand to take home (because, free and why not) we hit the road for the “long” two hour drive to the next stop: Glacier lagoon. Our drive was pretty intense for the first hour or two – lots of snow and wind and then BOOM, it was all clear again. A drive in Iceland is not without waterfalls and beautiful scenery so we stopped quite a bit to take it all in! (and of course some side-of-the-road modeling action)
We seriously enjoyed our drive today – lots of driving (about 4 hours of actual driving and about 4 hours of stopping and exploring). We saw the largest glacier in Europe (apparently Iceland is considered Europe) and it was huge. Our drive included parts of the glacier for over 2 hours! It’s bright blue color was always catching our eyes and we couldnt help but stop and stare. However, the most magical part of the day came at the Glacial Lagoon. It was just so beautiful we took lots of pictures and had lots of time to stop and stare at its beauty. This does not get enough attention – I hadnt heard about it until two days ago!
The Glacial Lagoon was about halfway for the driving today. However there wasnt much to see from the Glacial Lagoon to Hofn. So we drove about an hour and found our Airbnb. Since we couldnt make it last night due to weather our host had switched our location and we won that deal. We ended up with a “studio” instead of a shared house. We have our own cute little kitchen, bedroom, bath, and living room. And the owners did it all themselves, even the heated concrete floors!! (this by the way is a must here).
We hit the town (downtown proper) of Hofn, scoped out the tiny little town and then headed to, what else? Geothermal spa!! Because we have decided that is the right thing to do in Iceland. And this spa had GLACIAL VIEWS!! After the spa was dinner – and lemme tell ya, YUMMY!! I had lobster (teeny tiny little lobsters here). Lobster tempura, baked lobster; Lauren had a veggie burger – VEGAN style!! And it was all soooo good!! Tomorrow is still up in the air, whether we get to go North or South on the island – hopefully North so we can see the rest of the Island.
Wow. I am exhausted writing this tonight. We hit the road in an attempt to get to Hofn. Our first goal was to get some Petrol. About 20 minutes into the drive, we found the petrol station – however, it was broken!! The owner came out to try and help and basically in his body language and Icelandic language said it was broken. So we continued on our way. We put another petrol station in the gps and we found one that was much better than the one we were going to. It had a grocery store right next to it (apparently this is common), but it also had a yarn store across the street (win for Lauren!) So we filled up the half a tank for about $45, got some yummy bread and snacks and hit the yarn store. I guess I should point out that we found out there was a MAJOR storm heading our way and we were hoping to make it to Hofn, where we had a reservation for the night. At this point in the day (around 1030am) it wasnt all that bad. From the Secret Lagoon to Hofn should have been about 5 hours. Ok, back to our drive. We were listening to a podcast and Lauren noticed a waterfall off to the left. We decided to stop and see it, why not, we are on a road trip to see as much of Iceland as we can!! Well, we werent the only ones, turns out its a pretty big waterfall stop for tours and such. We had to pay for parking and then got to walk the area and check out the waterfalls. We are starting to realize that people and their snow pants/water proof pants are smarter than they look. There was an opportunity to go into a cave area, but you would get soaked. I was willing to go in, its just it was way too busy and people were just hanging out on rocks to wait their turn. So instead we headed back to the car to continue on our way. It was a beautiful stop!!
On the road again….our next stopping point was Vik. Our hopes was that we could make it all the way to Hofn still, but time was ticking and we were getting ready for the worst. Again…Lauren noticed a waterfall off to the left, so of course, we had to go. And guess what?? You could climb to the top!! So we had to climb. I promise you Lauren would NOT have climbed if I hadnt been there, but Im glad we went up. It was INSANE. The wind had picked up by this point, like dangerously so. The rental car lady had warned us to hold our car doors when we get out, and she wasnt kidding. None of the insurance covers doors going the wrong way, so we had to hold on carefully. We bundled up in rain jackets, sweaters, gloves, scarves, etc. and took to the stairs. LOTS AND LOTS OF STAIRS. We made it to the top, took a couple pictures and then headed down. Im not sure I can describe the wind enough for anyone who wasnt there to understand, but maybe my Aunt and Uncle in Florida would, hurricane force winds and all. On our way down a gust of wind knocked a girl off the stairs (parts only had rope hand rails) and she screamed. Luckily, her fall was all of 2 feet into grass, but still, thats how strong it was. We hustled back to the car to warm up and continue on our way.
It was about 230pm at this point. The reality that we wouldnt be making it to Hofn today. We were discussing options of things to do when we came upon a parking lot on the right side of the road. Lauren realized this was the DC3 plane that I have wanted to see this whole trip!! WOOHOOO!! I didn’t think we would make it!! And it looked so flat to get out there, I was even able to talk Lauren into coming with me….until we got out of the car!! Then the wind WHIPPED!! And the frozen rain pelted, and she went back to the car. And I, ran to the bus that charged you $27 to take you out the 2.5 miles to the plane. And let me tell you, best $27 I have spent, because the wind was so intense. Lauren said when I came back she didn’t know if I was going to get to see the plane because the weather was so crazy. When the dropped us at the plane, we had about 2 football fields to walk to get to it. There were only about 15 of us total there, and about 40 people who were crazy enough to walk the whole way. The wind was intense enough that it almost knocked me over at one point. And when you lean into the wind so you dont get pushed over its perfect, until the wind just stops and you almost fall over in the opposite direction!The DC3 plane was eerie. And weird. No one died during the crash landing. It was a US Naval plane, all 5 members survived the crash. Rumor has it the pilot switched to the wrong fuel tank and ran out of gas and they had bad weather so they crash landed. Anyway, the plane is just sitting there on a black sand beach. Nothing around for 2.5 miles (the parking lot now). I loved this place. I am so happy I got to do this!!
It was here in the parking lot once I was back that we changed our Airbnb to tomorrow and were on a mission to find a place to stay tonight. That actually wasnt the easiest thing to do. We were about 20 minutes from Vik and most of the hotels and Airbnbs were sold out for tonight. Luckily with 4 different apps we were able to find a place called The Farm House. It was 7 minutes from the plane parking lot. And let me tell you – we won!! This is a win for us. We got a great room, private bathroom (many of the places available did not have that option) and a kitchen. We checked in and the host recommended we hustle to go get food if we wanted to (it was now 4pm) because the roads would be closing soon – ya know hurricane force winds and all. So we “booked” it (at about 50kph) and got some pasta (duh), crisps, cheese, sauce, and a 7up for me. When we got back we cooked up our yummy food and enjoyed a hot meal in for the night! After dinner we played Sequence and I got killed again. But it was fun to learn a new game!
Man oh man did we sleep good. I woke up in the middle of the night with an aching back, but thats pretty normal at home, so nothing unexpected. We basically slept until about 930 this morning – it was great. We packed our bags and hit the road for the start of our ROAD TRIP!!
First stop – Tomato Greenhouse Lunch. Sounds a little strange, but man that was a great lunch. Basically it is a green house that grows tomatoes – 70% of all of Iceland’s tomatoes come from them. Glad Lauren decided to make reservations because it was a crazy place by the time we left. We opted for the unlimited “Famous Tomato Soup.” The soup was pretty much just tomato puree, and it was fabulous. So good!! It came with unlimited homemade bread as well, and I was full after 4 slices and 2 bowls!! They had tomato beer, tomato, unique blood mary’s, tomato ice cream, tomato pie – all things tomato!! We only had the soup and bread – everything else was a bit scary sounding. Anyway, you are eating IN the greenhouse! Its active and while we were there people were trimming the vines. It was so cool! We saw the pollinating bees they use and saw their pretty looking honey too.
After lunch we wandered to their horse pastures. They were so funny looking – all fuzzy and then it looked like their tummies were shaved. (We found out later thats where they start molting from).
After lunch we ventured off to Bruarfoss falls. It was supposed to be a quick hike to the falls – turns out you have to park much farther away and it became a 4.4 mile round trip hike!! But it was pretty and it was nice to stretch our legs. Just an FYI I have no boots and it was fine, but almost every other person on the walk was in boots, some even in snow pants….
After our much longer than expected falls hike we headed to the Secret Lagoon. I guess I should say it was earlier in the day we started to get worried because we hadnt heard from our Airbnb host. I had messaged him yesterday and today was still radio silence. Right before the hike I decided to email Airbnb because we needed to check in today and still had no information on this place. After our hike we realized he had a message from him. While I glanced over it, the main thing I gathered from it was that we needed to be near the Secret Lagoon. And since we are now Lagoon addicts we decided to head that way!.
The Secret Lagoon was much different than the Blue Lagoon. Lets just say you get to see more of people than the average person desires. When entering lagoons they want you to shower – naked – before you get in them. So yesterday it was put your suit on, go into shower stall, take your suit off, shower, put suit back on, and enter lagoon. Today it was strip down naked and go shower then put your suit on and head to the lagoon. I LOVE clothes. I dont really need to see myself or anyone else naked – ever really. Anyway had to figure out a way to do it. It was tough, but we got it done. The lagoon was much smaller than the blue lagoon but much more quaint and quiet. We really enjoyed the atmosphere at the Secret Lagoon. We met some sisters and chatted with them while we were floating around the lagoon.
The sisters gave us lots of ideas to check out on our Southern Icelandic drive. They have a Glacier lagoon and another glacier you can climb on (all for a fee of course). So we will be checking out lots of stuff on our drive!
We were at the lagoon for a couple hours and we decided to head out and grab something from like a gas station for dinner (They have gourmet gas stations apparently). When we got outside we went to put the Airbnb in the gps and planned to stop on the way….turns out we are STAYING AT THE SECRET LAGOON!! Our Airbnb had a problem apparently and they put us at the Secret Lagoon guest house!! And what makes that even better is that we get to go back to the lagoon in the morning FOR FREE!! Woohoo!! So we are enjoying our night by Lauren kicking my butt in Monopoly!!
Woooowwwweeee!! First I should say that it is not in fact a 14 hour travel day to get to Iceland from SFO. It was about 11. First flight was Alaska Airlines SFO to SEA. I had what was supposed to be about a 15 minute layover in Seattle, but it turned out to be more like 45 minutes. Thankfully I had time to get some grub before my flight.
I got Ramen….I would not recommend Ramen for a plane ride, when it comes in a biodegradable bowl. I didn’t want to rush eating the ramen so I was waiting until I got on the flight – what that meant was the heat and spiciness of the ramen was starting to break down the bowl, so by the time I got on the plane, it was leaking!! I had an emergency exit row so I had plenty of room to make a mess – the ramen splashed on my sweatshirt – so now I smell like spicy ramen.
Once I had finished my ramen boarding was also complete – and guess what NO ONE IN THE MIDDLE SEAT!! Woohooo!! The guy on the aisle and I chatted a bit about how he had broken up with the girl that was supposed to be coming on the trip MONTHS ago and when he called to see if he could get any money back (he couldn’t) he decided not to cancel until the morning of the flight so the middle seat would be open – and bless his hipster heart for doing just that!!
Our flight was a bit delayed, but who the heck cares, cuz no one was in the middle seat, I had my stomach full, a big ole pillow to rest my head on, and a quick 7.5 hour flight to ICELAND!!
Upon arriving in Iceland I expected the usual customs forms and check – but NO!! I just walked up to the passport agent and she asked how long I was in the EU for (apparently Iceland is part of the EU) and stamped my passport and I was on my way!! I met Lauren in the luggage reclaim area – she had been there about 2 hours. She, of course had made friends with a woman who was also waiting for someone on my same flight. Once my bag arrived we were on our way through customs – which again was nothing, there wasnt even a space for someone to pretend to be customs. Iceland is apparently very free.
Lauren grabbed a coffee while I read up on where to pick up our rental car and we headed out to find our shuttle to take us off site. Lauren was concerned about the weather and driving conditions and wanted to check into a 4×4 vehicle option. When we asked about it, the guy basically made us think we were crazy for wanting one and said it would be more than double the price to get one…..so off we went with our little Hyundai i20 (small little baby car). First stop BLUE LAGOON.
Lets just say that the Blue Lagoon is a total tourist trap – but WORTH IT!! We had reservations at 8am to beat the crowds and we did!! Lauren (the little researcher she is) got us the package that came with a robe and flips, free drink and an extra face mask. Once we were all checked in it was off to change into our suits. Before going into the lagoon you have to shower – naked – and then put your suit back on over a wet body. RUDE. That is so hard to do!! At least everyone was struggling the same. We decided to take our phones with us to snap some pictures. (it didnt last long).
The water was so warm and soothing. (didnt taste great, though Im sure they warn you about that too) We strolled in (the entrance is inside) and down the ramp and then finally through the door where the wind hit us something fierce. It was COLD!! But the water remained warm, so we dropped into the water and scooted out into the open lagoon for some pictures.
After about 10 minutes we were over holding our phones above the silica heavy water. So, the phones went back into the locker. We came back to the lagoon and headed over the face mask bar. We got Silica masks and you are supposed to leave that on for 10-15 minutes, but it is COLD!! Cold because of the wind blowing off over the ridge hits the mask and freezes your face. I could only handle it for like 2 minutes before I started taking it off. Lauren was a champ and made it the full 10 minutes. During that time I got more mask and put it on again. Made it a bit longer this time. We waded the water for a long while. We got some “pure Icelandic water” they had a little spigot of fresh water under one of the bridges. (Also ice old). We tried the steam room, it was pretty cold; and then off to the waterfall. The waterfall was like a massage for your shoulders, the weight of the water pelting your muscles was great. Lauren didnt care for it as much as I did.
We got another mask, this time algae. Its supposed to make our skin look like Cindy Crawford’s. Im not sure it worked, but it felt nice!! After the mask we headed to our lunch reservation.
Originally we had just decided to go get the sparkling wine that was complementary with our ticket, but then we heard it was pretty good, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
While the lunch was roughly $60 it was a good experience and the food was worth it!! After lunch it was back into the lagoon for some last minute pictures (we needed to try out portrait mode) and then head on our way.
After Blue Lagoon we headed to COSTCO!! Mainly just to see what they had there and it was basically a regular Costco. They had some different candy and such, but mainly the usual. After Costco we hit a supermarket (Bonus!) and stocked up on some snacks for our ROAD TRIP!!
We checked into our hotel and then ventured off to the downtown area of Reykjavik. It was a cold 20 minute walk each way, but the town was cute and felt very European.
We ate at a bar that was Big Lebowski themed bar (turns out I have no idea what that is). We got veggie burgers and then headed back to the hotel.
On our way we stopped at another grocery store to see if there was any bath towels there (we are going to go to another thermal bath and they charge you like $5 to rent a towel – and if we keep that up we might as well buy our own!). There were no towels there, but Im pretty sure I found a package of Whale, which made me sad.
Back in the hotel now and trying to warm up after the cold walk back. Planning tomorrow and looking forward to our continuing adventure!