It is such a privilege to be able to continue my college education and gain life experiences in an entirely different country. It is an even greater privilege to be able to travel outside of where I’m studying in Ireland to other nearby (and maybe even not-so-nearby) countries. My first destination of choice: Iceland!
After I had woken up from my surprisingly peaceful nap on the plane, I could already tell that I was entering a whole new world. As we descended and left the clouds above, I could already sense that it was going to be a very, very cold weekend ahead…
And was I more than right! Despite my belief (or should I say delusion?) that Dublin had at least slightly built up my tolerance for the cold, the inner Californian in me was no match for the rain and wind of the Icelandic weather. So bundled up in my beanie, scarf, and a combination of five shirts and jackets, I prepared for the exciting weekend ahead!
That Friday we took a drive to the Blue Lagoon. I mean, you can’t go to Iceland without visiting one of its most famous attractions, no matter how touristy it really is. And when it’s that cold outside, there is nothing like a giant geothermal heated pool to warm you right up! And the free facemask didn’t hurt either. Tired from a day of travelling, we headed home to our cozy little AirBnB to get ready for an early start the next morning.
Saturday was a wonderful mix of long drives on the road, beautiful waterfall sightings, and visits to other natural wonders along the southern coast of Iceland. Our first stop was at a Lava Tunnel where we joined a guided tour and were able to explore the inside of a lava tube. Long ago, a nearby volcano had erupted and the path of the lava had created an underground cave over a mile long. It was such a cool experience!
Our next four stops were all waterfalls. Iceland has some of the most amazing waterfalls in the world—you cannot miss the chance to see them when you are visiting! We stopped at Urridafoss, Iceland’s largest waterfall by volume, Seljalandfoss, Gljufrafoss, and Skogafoss. My favorite waterfall of the weekend was Gljufrafoss. Hidden inside a cave, it is only accessible by walking through the river flowing out from it. Once inside, the view is absolutely breathtaking.
Afterwards we headed to the Solheimajokull glacier. This was one of my favorite experiences of the entire weekend! Not only where we able to see a real life glacier, we were able to walk on it and explore it all on our own! I still cannot get over it.
Sunday we went to Bruarfoss waterfall, a hidden gem on private property and actually quite difficult to find due to the lack of signs, but getting lost was totally worth it! The shockingly blue water and lack of people in the early morning made it quite a worthwhile experience.
I know what your thinking: Did you see the Northern Lights!?!? We tried both nights, and I guess technically yes, but it is debatable whether we actually saw them, or just wanted to see them so bad that our brains created faint green lights in the sky. The moon was too bright to make the viewing conditions completely ideal, but at least we saw them for a glimpse of a second!
I had such a fun time during my trip to Iceland—I cannot wait to take another trip soon! Whether you plan on going to Iceland or somewhere else, here are some tips I picked up along the way for planning the best weekend getaway.
1. Evaluate the need for guided tours
Sometimes it is very necessary to go on a guided tour! Other times, not so much. While the lava tunnel was super cool, I am not sure the price was worth the experience. On a similar note, when we visited the glacier, there were a dozen guided tours going on. However, we were able to explore the glacier ourselves absolutely free of cost. My recommendation? Do your research! Find out if there are other similar experiences that are free. Look up pictures and read reviews to see if the tour is worth the money.
2. If you want pictures, bring a selfie stick
I know, I know. A selfie stick? Really!? Trust me on this one. If you care about getting cool pictures of you and your friends in front of these amazing sights, then you need to bring one. If you are worried about weird stares—don’t be! There will be plenty of other people with them. And those that don’t have them will be jealous of your genius-ness. Of course, if you simply don’t care about getting a picture with your face in front of a waterfall (which I totally get), then by all means skip the selfie stick.
3. Plan Ahead
I cannot stress the importance of planning ahead! Flights get exponentially more expensive the longer you wait to buy them. If you do plan on joining some tours, spaces fill up! We bought tickets for the Blue Lagoon a week ahead. The only time slot left was for 8:00pm. While the crowds were minimal, it was difficult to see and enjoy the actual color of the bright blue water in the dark. Doing your research ahead of time is also the only way you are going to be able to find the hidden gems of the country, away from the more touristy attractions. It is also a good idea to plan out an itinerary. You don’t want to waste time deciding where to go while you’re on the road. But also don’t forget to leave room for impromptu stops! You want to make sure you are able to stop on the side of the road when you see wild Icelandic horses just begging to be pet.
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<p>Hey, I'm Alexis! I'm a born and raised San Diego, California girl and (no surprise here) I love the beach, warm weather, and all things outdoors--from riding bikes on the coast to exploring hidden hiking trails. However, my biggest passion in life is softball. I have been playing for ten years now, and I currently play in college (go tigers!). In the summer I help coach youth softball teams and serve as a camp counselor. I love being around people, sharing my energy with others, and just having a good time living life!</p>