Our 5 Unexpected Favorites of Iceland
If you haven’t figured it out by now, we really love Iceland and want everyone to visit at least once! With so much to see and do it is definitely a country that should be at the top of your list. Beautiful and funny people, innovative and unique food scene, and natural wonders to keep you busy for years! We spent 10 days traveling around this beautiful place and even spent 7 days circling the island’s Ring Road in a motorhome. After 7 days on the road, dozens of hot dogs* later, our Icelandic exploration resume was growing but the number of things to potentially stop at was overwhelming. We couldn’t possibly make a list of which places we liked the most, so instead, we wanted to provide a little taste of places we would visit again. Obviously, we can’t share all the best spots to see! You’re going to have to inquire for that information!!!!
FILL OUT THIS FORM TO DO SO! 😉
*Hot dogs – Iceland is known for their lamb dogs. Makes sense for a country that is home to more sheep than people. It is a common stop for backpackers to grab a dog at the gas station.
So many waterfalls, so little time! With so many waterfalls situated a short walk from the main highway, Glymur was a welcomed trek. Glymur makes you work to see her beauty and once you get close enough you can hear the roar and crash of Iceland’s 2nd highest waterfall. Hike a little further and you will be rewarded with a majestic canyon that ends with her presence. Until recently, Glymur was Iceland’s tallest waterfall at 649 ft but a newly discovered waterfall in a glacier has topped 656 ft. Ever hear, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”? Well, that’s not entirely accurate because this place is about both. Total round trip hiking time is anywhere between 3-3.5 hours. This hike is sketchy, tall, exposed, and challenging but steel cables strategically placed will keep you safe! What else could you want? Oh, you want a stunning waterfall at the end? We got ya! You want to traverse a river on a wire bridge? Climb through natural rock arches? Hang your head over a canyon taller than 600 ft to watch nesting birds feed their young? This place needs to be at top of your list and we know where the hike begins!
“Ground control to Major Tom.” Would you believe us if we told you we love the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? I can neither confirm nor deny that this movie may have been the inspiration to go to Iceland. You watch the movie and try not to contract the Iceland-bug! There’s a scene in the movie where Ben Stiller (Walter Mitty) is reluctantly running to jump into a helicopter (you need to watch) and his on-screen crush is playing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in hopes of motivating him. The storyline is not important right now, but what is important is the town where this scene was filmed. In the movie, they claim to currently be in Nuuk, Greenland but we all know Hollywood and their poetic license. This scene was filmed in a stunning little fishing village called Stykkishólmur, or Stykkish, as most people happily shorten the name. There’s not much to do in this town besides relax and eat some good seafood but that shouldn’t stop you from experiencing their pace of life. There’s some great restaurants, a cozy harbor, and a futuristic church to scope out if you can handle the one dirt “highway” that leads there.
Doesn’t get much more unique than Silfra. This place is found inside Thingvellir National Park (popular Game of Thrones filming location) and is a fissure found between tectonic plates that separate North America and Eurasia. A popular site for snorkeling and scuba diving, the divergent tectonic plates spread about 2 cm each year. Crystal clear, drinkable water fills the fissure from Iceland’s second largest glacier and gets as cold as 36-39o F, so a dry suit is necessary for either underwater activity. This is the only place you can swim between 2 continents and touch them both at the same time since parts of the fissure are really narrow. If this doesn’t sound amazing to you then we can’t be friends!
Iceland’s unofficial capital of the north! This town was a welcomed site after hours of white-knuckle driving. The stretch of road from Höfn towards Akureyri was steep, dirty, and foggy. We estimated that we didn’t see another person on the road for about 5 hours because it is that remote. Regardless, once we realized we completed half of the Ring Road our moral increased. There wasn’t much to see or do in the northeast portion of the island but as you get closer to Akureyri, the number of sites becomes dizzying once again. Akureyri was exactly what we needed and we loved every second of this place, maybe even more than Reykjavík. Yea, I said it! The vibe of the town is laid-back and they have a great collection of bars, restaurants, cafés, and hostels if need be. Isolated to the motorhome and road for the last day we wanted to stretch our legs and cover the town. One only needs a day or two here but you will not be disappointed. Grab a couple Viking beers at Akureyri Backpackers and you will meet some interesting travelers doing the same. Then, head out in search of some good seafood! Not hard to find. Our motorhome cuisine was rapidly becoming boring so we had to up the ante a little bit! We ended up finding a restaurant that served whale steaks. I know, poor “little” whale. Icelanders have been surviving off whale meat for centuries so it was time we gave it a try and we were not disappointed. The meat was from a minke whale but you wouldn’t be able to tell, tasted almost exactly like a beef filet.
DC-3 PLANE CRASH SITE
Last and certainly not least, when in Iceland you must make it to see the DC-3 plane crash. Exactly why the planes crashed is not known, but most experts believe the pilot simply ran out of fuel. Thankfully, the whole crew survived and what remains of the wreckage is eerie and otherworldly, to say the least. The plane has rested on a remote and isolated stretch of black sand beach since 1973, and amazingly, much of the hull has remained intact. Locating this spot would be incredibly hard so we did our research beforehand and knew where to begin the trek. The site is located about 6 miles off the main road near the town of Vik. When we visited, we noticed a few people were able to drive their cars to the site but we weren’t so lucky. Fearful of getting our heavy motorhome stuck in the black sand, we set off on foot not knowing how far the site actually was from the road. We knew where to park but failed to research how far the actual hike was! Whoops! All we knew is that we had to head south from the road at about 11 o’clock in direction. About 30 minutes into the hike our eyes began to play tricks on us. Walking on black sand for a couple miles is probably the closest thing to walking on the moon. We could no longer see the road or our motorhome so we felt completely isolated. “I think I see the ocean a couple hundred yards ahead”, we kept saying to each other but it was just the mirage of water. Nearly an hour later (honestly, we lost track of time), we began to see the shape of something foreign in the distance. Sure enough, there in all its naked glory was something that didn’t belong. The site was haunting but mesmerizing at the same time. We spent a while taking photos feeling thankful for the mysterious gift that rewarded us at the end of our hike. In reality, it was just half of the hike. When we visited in 2015 car were still able to drive onto the beach. Recently, we have been reading that cars are no longer permitted so the hike is the only way Luckily, you have us to show you the way!