Iceland Adventures: A Story In Photos

To celebrate a milestone birthday for Dave last March, we took a holiday to Paris, and on the way home, we stopped in Reykjavik. These are our adventures.

We had three days in Reykjavik, thanks to Iceland Air’s Stopover program. To get outside the city a bit, we booked an all-day semi-private tour with GoEcco. Basically, a Viking picked us up in a badass off-road vehicle and drove us around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, stopping along the way to show us volcanic craters, fishing villages, a giant ogre, and the Hotel Búðir.

But first, we had to drive around Reykjavik and pick up our tour companions, which wasn’t bad because we saw the Hallgrímskirkjaall Church.

Once upon a time…

Hallgrímskirkjaall Church in Reykjavik, Iceland |

The weather was crazy all day long. It started out sunny and throughout the day, we experienced every type of precipitation: drizzle, fog, hard rain, snow flurries, brilliant sunshine, and a full-on white-out of snow.

After driving the the under-sea tunnel at Borgarnes, our first stop was at these waterfalls that are equipped with salmon steps to help the fish navigate during spawning season. I wish I could tell you the waterfall name, but our tour guide, a.k.a., The Viking, was a last-minute substitute and his English was solid enough to communicate, but not always able to articulate where we were. (However, his English beat the hell out of my Icelandic, which is non-existent.)

Waterfalls outside Reykjavik, Iceland |

While we were at the waterfalls, the weather cycled through sleet, hail, rain, and sun. We were there for 10 minutes. I’m not exaggerating.

Next up was the volcanic crater called Eldborg. It totally photobombed me.

Eldborg in Reykjavik, Iceland |

Then we drove a bit more and stopped to look at this, ’cause, you know: views.

Panorama of Eldborg in Reykjavik, Iceland |

Then we tromped around Mars for a while. Dave is a mighty explorer.

Beautiful scenery near Reykjavik, Iceland |

One of the highlights of our tour was supposed to be a natural hot spring where we could take a quick dip. But The Viking, crinkling his map in disgust and frustration, said in his endearing accent, “I’m not going to lie. I haven’t been to this natural pool in 20 years. We’ll see if I can find it.”

This ominous pronouncement was followed by an ultra-slow speed drive through marshy fields dotted with hillocks, giant puddles, and a meandering, muddy track with hair-pin turns. We didn’t ever find the hot spring, but we did stop for a little wander around the fields. I trekked behind a hill to pee, and this was my view. Best bathroom scenery ever.

Panorama of sunny marshes outside Reykjavik, Iceland |

The next hour or so was spent driving through an increasingly white snowstorm. It started with sparse, lazy, fat flakes and eventually became blizzard-like with plenty of wind and snow flying horizontally. While that was all going on, we climbed up the side of an inactive volcano cone, as you do. The majesty and power of the scenery far surpassed by photo-taking abilities, but here are some snaps to give you an idea.

Climbing an extinct volcanic cone in a snowstorm near Reykjavik, Iceland |

Snowy landscape near Reykjavik, Iceland |

Then just like that—poof!—back to hard-edged sunshine when we arrived at the Hotel Búðir, where we slurped their specialty soup: a ridiculously creamy, paprika-spiked shrimp bisque.

The flag of Iceland fluttering in a blue sky near Budir, Iceland |

In our pre-trip, daydreamy research, we saw photos of the Buðir Black Church, and then there it was. Stark, compact, and standing strong against the winds blowing off the beach—the very beach where I dug the toe of my boot into the sand and found snow underneath!

The Black Church in Budir, Iceland |

The Viking then took us on a tromp across the sea cliffs at the fishing villages of Hellnar and Arnarstapi where sea birds swooped and called, riding the wind. And we ran into this ogre (or, more accurately, this half-human, half-ogre named Bardur who has a truly epic tale.

Bardur stone scupture on the beach in Iceland |

And then we reached Helgafell, a.k.a., Holy Mountain. According to legend, those who climb it for the first time will have three wishes granted, but only if: they don’t look back or speak on the way up, they make their wishes while facing east, they don’t tell anyone what the wishes are, and they only wish for benevolent things.

Panorama of Helgafell Iceland |

The magical end to the day came as the sun was setting over Breidafjordur Bay where we saw a group of seals frolicking on the surface, capturing their dinner and barking to each other. Then we loaded up for our ride back to Reykjavik in the twilight: it snowed all the way home.

The end.

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  • Kait says:

    Gorgeous pictures! I really want to go there one day!

  • Svend says:

    Spent three and a half years while assigned as the XO of the Naval Air Station Keflavik – where you landed in Iceland. A truly magical place. A truly wonderful people. I’m so thrilled you enjoyed your trip.

  • Susan says:

    Beautiful pictures. What an adventure! If you haven’t seen the movie Land Ho! you should check it out.

  • Nancy says:

    We flew Iceland Air to Paris for my husband’s retirement trip for the 100th running of the Tour de France. When WE GOT BACK we learned of the stop-over plan. We couldn’t believe it. Now, it is MY destination for my retirement trip. Did you see the Northern Lights???

  • Nicole says:

    Melissa, you so inspire me – through your tasty recipes, recommended reading lists, and now travel destinations! After reading your blog post, I immediately contacted my favorite gal pal so that we could start planning an Iceland stopover. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  • Shannon says:

    Did you make your three wishes? 🙂

    Wasn’t there some super fancy hotel built around a hot spring created by some sort of construction that was going to be a highlight of this trip? Forgive me if I’m right out to lunch and mixing up topics or dreaming it up altogether.

    • The hot spring of which you’re thinking is Blue Lagoon, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more. I drank champagne while soaking in the hot springs with crystal clear skies overhead. We smeared silica mud on our faces, splashed around, then ate a wonderful lunch in the café before getting on the bus to the airport home. Perfect ending to our trip. 100% recommended.

  • So sorry to read you didn’t find the hot spring. If you will come here again Melissa, here is a list with a few of them, with GPS coordinates and all so you won’t miss out the next time! 🙂
    Happy travels!