Solo Travel

Iceland – Winter Wonderland

Iceland – Winter Wonderland

Surprisingly, one of the best days of this trip was the day I chose to explore the South Coast, during a blizzard. We got to the beach — the tour guide pointed in the direction of the beach — we got out of the van and then all looked back at him and said “huh? what beach?”

Scroll through, and you’ll see why I was concerned about where the ocean was, where the cliff face was, and slightly concerned as to how I would make it back to the van!

 

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Iceland – in many words

Iceland – in many words

So. Iceland.

I basically showed up there with no clue about the history (used to be a territory of Denmark!) or the people (~330K, and two-thirds of the country lives in the Reykjavik area). I bought a flight, booked some tours and then showed up.

QUICK TRIP DETAILS

  • Where I stayed – Loft Hostel [7/10]
    • For a laugh, scroll down to the “Hostel Saga” section of this post
  • Favorite restaurants
  • Random favorites
    • Skyr yogurt is bomb!
    • Vedur was great for forecasts

WHAT I DID

Day 1

  • Blue Lagoon (from 8am – 1pm)
    • Recommend spending a while here! I arrived in Reykjavik at ~4am, and couldn’t check into my hostel till 2pm, so I stayed in the Blue Lagoon from it’s opening time at 8am till around 1pm
    • Do book this ahead! And when booking, if you select the cheapest option, just remember to bring a towel and slippers, and you’ll be all set.
  • Northern Lights tour (@8.30pm)
    • This got cancelled, and rebooked for Day 2. I highly recommend booking this on your first day, so you have many chances to see it if the forecast is bad on your tour date.
    • Check out Vedur for forecasts!

Day 2

  • Free walking tour – link
    • Highly recommend this! It’s similar to Sandeman’s in Western Europe and is donation based
    • You can only sign up a few days in advance, so don’t forget to do so!
  • Reykjavik Food Walk – link
    • This was AH-mazing, and I highly recommend!
    • If you don’t feel like doing a tour, and want to eat all the food on your own, we did:
      • Islenski Barinn – The Icelandic meat soup
      • Ostabúðin/Cheese shop – Cheese & Meat plate
      • Café Loki – Rye bread ice cream
      • Hot dog stand (Bæjarins bestu)
      • Messinn – Arctic char and Icelandic “plokkfiskur” or cod stew
      • Apótek – Apricot mousse and apple sorbet

Day 3

  • Extreme Iceland’s Golden Circle Complete tour
  • This was my favorite tour by far! However, there are a ton of stops. It was basically, drive for 30 mins, stop and stare at some amazing natural wonder, drive for 20 minutes, see wonder #2. By the end, my brain hurt a little bit, but in a good way!

Day 4

Arctic Adventure’s South Coast tour

Day 5

Troll Adventures Snæfellsnes tour

Day 6

  • Nothing! Just meandered around Reykjavik
  • If I did this trip again, I would put this meandering day in between some tours, to get a mental break

 

TIPS / RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PLANNING YOUR VISIT TO ICELAND

  • Go with Wow Air! It was pretty cheap, and I brought my own food, water & movies and had a great time
  • Note that once you land you will spend more money than you think you will (unless you’re down with PB&J sandwiches). Save money when you can and just come prepared to throw money away. Chips + Water for $10 sounds like a joke – it’s not!
  • In the KEF airport, you can’t make any purchases when you land, until you are in the “Arrivals” section of the airport (and vice versa when you’re taking off)
  • If you would like some alcohol at some time during this trip, get some at Duty Free in the airport
  • If you arrive really early, go to the Blue Lagoon!

AND NOW…ENJOY THE HOSTEL SAGA

This story is such a hot mess, that I’m going to tell it in bullet-point form

  • So some background…
  • Generally hostels have co-ed and female-only rooms within the larger hostel
  • I generally book beds in the female-only rooms for safety reasons / to make my parents less concerned and I did the same thing at Loft Hostel.
  • Remember that I landed in Iceland at 4am, and spent hours at the Blue Lagoon? So I’m feeling pretty exhausted and tired when I check in at around 2.30pm.
  • The person who checked me in was clearly new–the fact that she was surprised when I asked for restaurant recommendations should have been a hint
  • I also follow her instructions and store my bottle of duty free wine in the hostel shared fridge…
  • Getting to the juicy parts
  • I get to my room, and am about to pass out and sleep when a roommate walks in – and lo and behold it’s a fairly tall dude from L.A.
  • I’m sleep deprived and kinda tired, and I say “Isn’t this supposed to be a female room?” And he’s like “No, I’m in this room as well”. Which was like “duh”.
  • At this point I want sleep more than I want to figure this stuff out. So I say “huh”, and then proceed to get comfortably asleep
  • I wake up around 6pm and meet roommate #2 who is this funny British guy.
  • At this point, it is clear that I’m not hallucinating, and the hostel definitely made a mistake. But I was starving and priorities = food .
    • I also realize that in my 6-bed “female” room, my 5 other roommates were men. 4 British guys and 1 American guy.
  • But, priorities first. I get some dinner, come back to the hostel and proceed to go to sleep
  • At 2am, I am woken up by the sound of all my roommates coming back from their male bonding drinking session
  • And then …. I kid you not … there was a loud pillow fight, and blankets were being stolen from each other’s beds and drunken stupidity ensued for like 30 minutes
    • I was pissed
    • I had to text one of my friends who was enjoying an evening in Miami, and I vented to her, to prevent myself from yelling at these drunk grown ass 20-something year olds
  • Morning comes, and I’m kinda tired, but run to shower and get ready. As I get up from my bed and dig around my suitcase to get my clothes, I see…an item
  • There was an (unused) condom on the floor of our dorm room
  • At that point, I was done, but I had places to be
  • So I got ready, left the condom where it was, and headed out to my walking tour (mind you everything prior happened on day 1)
  • I arrive back in the hostel, after the walking and food tours, and go upstairs to get some of my wine. Because you know, this was a day for alcohol.
  • And of COURSE, someone had taken my bottle of wine
  • Ramping down
  • So I do what I don’t like doing, and went to reception, and calmly (in the mode of my sheroe) told them what was what
    • I got a new keycard to the room type I actually booked (where I met some amazing roommates from Korea, Hong Kong, Mississippi and Ecuador, who were all sober, fun and smart)
    • I also got free breakfast for the rest of the stay. If I had bought it upfront, the breakfast would have cost $16 / day (because #iceland)
  • So….there you have it! What would you have done?

Do go to Iceland!!! I’m already planning to go again in the summer, when apparently instead of Winter Wonderland, Iceland becomes a Hobbit-esque wonder!

P.S. Because Iceland is such a small country (~330k people), there is also an anti-incest app. Yup. That is a problem that they have to tackle. And they don’t make lives easier on themselves since there are no “family” names. Essentially sons are Father’s First Name-Son (ex: Erickson) and daughters’ last names are Father’s First Name-Dottir (ex: Erickdottir). The more you know huh?

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Istanbul Lost Files: Rooftops, Istikal & Taksim

You know that feeling when you’re sure you have more pictures, but there are just too many to sort through so you give up. Welp that’s what happened. But I got myself to finally sift through and wrap up the Turkish goodness. Expect a wrap up of Mexico soon! And then on to Philly & Miami & San Francisco/Napa & Louisville.

So let’s talk about the red rooftops of Istanbul. I honestly don’t know what materials they’re made of, and a quick google search led me to rooftop bars…which is not quite where this is heading. But the color and the texture took me back to a comforting place, they took me back to Nigeria.

And as always, there’s something electric about those night pictures that always seem to capture a little bit of a city’s soul. This is Taksim & Istikal

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A Little Giddy Video in Santorini

One of those extremely giddy, happy, relaxed and fun nights. One of the best I’ve had traveling

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Santorini: Beach Haze

This. This was what I travelled for. I knew I needed a lazy vacation after Istanbul, where I could just laze around and be a bum. But…I did get in a hike from Fira to Oia, and also decided to Kayak in Santorini…resulting in the most relaxing 20 minute nap I’ve ever had (pictured above), and incredibly sore shoulders for the rest of the trip. But…nothing can beat that Beach Haze.

I did the Santorini Sea Kayak, and I have to admit that the TripAdvisor reviews were a little worrying. Essentially depending on where you hotel is located, their van can’t come directly to your door, but they don’t exactly tell you that. I had to walk about 5 minutes out before I finally found the car, and I’m sure they would have driven off without me if I hadn’t read those reviews and come out to look for them. It was a pretty amazing experience though, with a delicious picnic at the end. 

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Santorini: Fira to Oia

The hike from Fira to Oia was undoubtedly one of my favorite parts of this trip. Granted you don’t go to Santorini for the beaches, what with the Volcanic soil and all. But it is beautiful, and the houses are gorgeous and the landscape indescribable. And nothing makes it clearer than…hiking for 5 hours up the mountains…I swear it was amazing! And you’re on vacation after all, you’ve already eaten a ton, might as well get some physical exercise in and look at the gorgeous world. Or you could just hang out on the beach…but then you wouldn’t get to see Santorini in all it’s glory, and you would have missed out. Merry Christmas!

Posted by Onome in Travel