In the fall, my group of girlfriends and I decided we should go to Iceland. In February. Mid winter. With 4 months planning. Oh, and did I mention it was 2 weeks before my wedding? 😳 Once we decided to do it, the planning came quickly. 7 of us got together, rented 2 cars, a bunch of apartments & planned our route!! We’d planned on cooking all of our own food to keep the costs down, so we always made sure to book places that had complete kitchens – it honestly made all the difference in our budgets!
We planned an 8 day trip to the southern part of the island. The northern part gets fairly sketchy in the winter if you’re not completely prepared – and to be honest we ran into a massive snowstorm one day which thwarted our plans. Iceland in the winter is NOT a joke…the roads can disappear in an instant, the weather can change and the ice builds quickly. We saw multiple people stuck on the side of the road because they pulled over onto the non-existent shoulders. If you go to Iceland in the winter, you HAVE to be prepared and know how to drive in the snow!! (That’s my PSA for the day).
When I went to Iceland last time, I was alone (which was great), but I was thrilled that I wasn’t alone this time!! Having people to hang out with and talk to was so much better. We were able to enjoy the gorgeous country together and experience things like a blizzard, epic waterfalls, and long drives together. It was truly one of the best trips of my life (and the best way to spend the last few weeks before my wedding!).
PS: All photos are a mix of iPhone, digital & film!!
DAY 1: Landed in Keflavik, picked up our car & drove to Reykjavik. We met up with Kristin & Michael who had arrived the day before, changed & headed out to the cutest little cafe. The sun doesn’t even rise in Iceland in the winter until 9:45 (!!!), so we wandered around the city (in freezing temperatures with severe jet lag 😂) and watched the sun come up. Despite the fact that it was SO COLD, it was one of the most beautiful mornings!! We walked around, hit the sights, and then realized we could check into our apartment where we slightly crashed for about an hour.
We hit up Sandholt Bakery for the first time (of many) that afternoon – if you’ve ever been there, you know how good it is!! They didn’t offer anything gluten free but the coffee was AMAZING, & everyone else LOVED their pastries. It’s a beautiful bakery inside as well, and 100% worth the visit!!
The sun sets around 5:30 pm…they have such little light that it’s crazy!! We were all so exhausted that we crashed that night around 7 pm 😂.
DAY 2: We drove up the coast to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which is one of my favorite places in the country. The coast is rugged and juts up against the mountains…there are desolate little farms scattered throughout, AND we got to see the sunrise! We found some gorgeous Icelandic ponies that were SO happy to make friends on the way.
We found the Búðir Church (one of my favorite places!), had mini photoshoots, flew the drone…you know, the usual things 😂. We hit up the cliffs after, and then had to head back because there’s not enough light to drive that far back. To me, the best part of that night was being able to just hang out together and talk about our adventures, play too much “Heads Up,” and drink wine.
DAY 3: This was the day that we hit a snag. Our plan was to drive to the Golden Circle (it contains the Geyser, Þingvellir National Park, and Gullfoss). When we headed out in the morning, we stopped to get gas and realized that the wind and snow was starting to pick up, but decided to keep driving anyways. Within a half an hour, we were in a complete whiteout and couldn’t see the road, the car in front or anything else…so we turned around ASAP and headed back into the city. We waited the storm out in a beautiful little cafe (I mean – aren’t they all!?) and had a mini urban photoshoot. We had reservations for the Secret Lagoon in Fluðir that ue night so we headed over the mountains when the snow cleared up and made it to the town without issue. The Blue Lagoon is the most well known hot spring in the country, but the Secret Lagoon is the oldest in the country – it’s smaller, in a beautiful location & far cheaper!! We stayed just outside of the town in the NICEST little B&B run by a family (it was definitely one of our favorite places to stay!!).
DAY 4: This was a LONG day. We drove the farthest on this day – all the way to the Jökulsarlon lagoon. It was a slightly rough 6 hours in the car (did I mention that only 2 of us could drive standard so we were the permanent drivers? 😳). We were lucky that the day was absolutely beautiful & we were able to see all the gorgeous sights on the way. The land changes SO much as you head east…the snow starts piling up and the glaciers start to creep down & cover the land. It’s incredible. There is no way to perfectly describe it.
It was SO sunny when we arrived at the lagoon, which made the ice literally SPARKLE. I’ve never seen anything like it before. We headed across the street to the Black Diamond Beach (it’s where the mouth of the river & lagoon meets the ocean). The ice is all over the beach, and while it looks so tiny in the photos, look for the black specks which are PEOPLE. These icebergs were HUGE!! We were there at sunset, and it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. On the way back to our hotel, we found another random waterfall & the Vatnajökull glacier in the Skaftafell National Park. By that time, it was almost dark (you’ll see the photo), but it was still breathtaking. The base of Vatnajökull is one of my favorite places in the entire world. However, nothing made me sadder than comparing my photos from 2017 when I visited and I saw how much of the glacier had melted. We attempted to see the Northern Lights that night…no dice, but we all had a great time working on our night photography. Welcome to traveling with us 😂.
DAY 5: The next morning, we headed towards Vik and stopped at Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon…it was a short walk up and a beautiful view – totally worth it. The views alone!! Once we hit Vik, we threw together another photo shoot (we can’t help ourselves), explored and visited the Reynisfjara Beach, which is just over the mountain. The Black Sand beach is one of the coolest things to see…the beach is made of tiny rocks worn smooth by the waves, and you can see the spray for miles. We caught sunset at the beach, and the pinks and oranges were INSANE. Worth it.
DAY 6: Valentine’s Day!! We headed out EARLY to catch sunrise at Reynisfjara Beach and do a couples shoot for Kristin & Michael at the Basalt Colums (also one of the most incredible geological things I’ve ever witnessed).
We departed from the beach to the Solheimsandur plane crash – where we found out that they have a BUS now, so you don’t have to walk out to the crash site in the blowing sand and rain. The sun peeked out when we got to the plane, and even though it was something I’d seen before, it was still awe inspiring.
We drove next to Skogafoss (it’s about a 10 minute drive west from the plane!), and the sun continued to peek out while we were there. There’s a bunch of stairs you can take to the top (worth it even if you’re terrified by heights 🙋🏼). We stayed that night in the most beautiful little cottages that were right next to the hotel I stayed at last time…it’s at the base of the mountain with fields stretched out in front. Don’t worry, I’ll link all of our hotels!!
DAY 7: We awoke to another snow storm in the morning, but the sun came out and it was…guess what? GORGEOUS. Is that my most overused word or what? We drove to Seljalandsfoss on the way back to the city – you can walk behind it during any time other than the winter which is so cool…but parts of it are definitely blocked off because of the ice. It’s still a beautiful sight and a nice little hike around. We headed straight to the lighthouse at Seltjarnarnes before calling it a day and heading back into the city. That night the girls surprised me with a bachelorette party (have I mentioned how much I love them?)…complete with pad thai, the penis museum, and my favorite bar that has the elderflower and lime cider I’d been dreaming about since I’d had it the first time!!
DAY 8: We headed to the Hallgrimskirkja Churck in Reykjavik, found more cute cafes and in general just spent our last day hanging out together. We ate lunch again in the same cafe we’d already frequented, shopped, and enjoyed each others company. Some girls flew out in the early afternoon so we headed to the airport, traded one car in and drove around Keflavik for a few hours until our flights were ready. Leaving Iceland and all of my best girls (& Michael) was tough, but I knew that we had packed our days SO much and we had so many memories.
WHERE WE STAYED:
Reykjavik: Stay Apartments Bolholt (Having an apartment to stay in right when we arrived in the city was absolutely perfect!)
Fluðir: Skyggnir Bed & Breakfast (This was a beautiful little family run B&B by the Secret lagoon!!)
Horgsland: Horgsland Cottages (Brand new little cottages – but there was no one on site which was an issue. It was in a great location, though!!)
Eyvindarholar: North Star Cottage (a gorgeous location!!)
Reykjavik: Reykjavik Hostel Village (one of the NICEST hostels I’ve ever stayed in!!)