It wasn’t that Iceland wasn’t high on my travel list, I don’t really have a travel list simply because I want to go everywhere. So when the opportunity to go to Iceland with WOW Air was presented, I jumped on it. The more I researched Iceland the more I was beyond excited to go, and the more I realized I needed to continue doing research!
Honestly, I cannot say enough about Iceland. I LOVED it. I can see why in the past three years it has had a huge tourism boom — BECAUSE IT IS AN AMAZING MAGICAL PLACE.
I will say that if it is a destination that is on your travel bucket list, GO NOW. I wish I would have gone a few years ago before the tourism popularity started. Personally I think Iceland is just at the beginning of their tourism boom. I think it’s about to blow up. As more and more writers/bloggers/influencers go and share their stories, the more people are going to go and come home and tell their friends and family how awesome it is, and then they will want to go. Also, it’s a quick flight from the east coast — only five hours!
Before my husband and I went we watched this PBS segment about how the tourism boom has affected the people and the economy of Iceland. I thought it was interesting and if you are planning on going, definitely watch it.
The infrastructure in Iceland doesn’t really seem ready for more of a tourism boom than they have now. As much as I think there is a ton of opportunity for locals to profit off of tourism, at the same time they don’t want the tourists to ruin the landscape either, which I completely understand because it’s stunning and feels untouched.
I kept all of that in mind while I was there. I remember my mom talking about how she went to Ireland a long time ago, and then when our parents took me and my siblings there when I was in high school (17 years ago) she talked about how much it had changed since she had been the first time and that it had become so touristy and that it just wasn’t the same.
I don’t want that to happen to Iceland, so I hope they can figure out how to get everything in order to accommodate paying tourists! Honestly I don’t think it’s something you would notice much while there except that there are lots of tourists and tour buses at the tourist spots, and you will figure it out when you are trying to rent a car and book things and they are all booked up in advance.
We had an overnight flight from Baltimore. If you don’t know the DC area, Baltimore and DC are basically connected. Depending on time of day and traffic, the drive to the Baltimore airport (BWI) can be 45 minutes to an hour (or longer), or you can easily take Amtrak from DC for around $11. We were driving up with another couple and we parked in long-term parking for $8 a day, and took the shuttle to the airport. Couldn’t have been easier. We were at the airport very early and knew we needed to eat before we got on the flight. I had also read that everything in Iceland was really expensive so we stocked up on snacks at the airport.
I had never flown with WOW Air and found it to be a very friendly airline, and they have pretty unbeatable prices! My husband is tall so I made sure to book seats with extra leg room which was really affordable. The five hour flight went by with no hiccups.
One thing that stood out to me about WOW Air is that their branding is really good and really consistent. You can see on the little stub the photo above that it says …and I’m your stub. There was humorous wording everywhere, and even the WOW Air building in Iceland was painted in their bright purple — you couldn’t miss it.
CAR RENTAL & WIFI
We arrived in Iceland at 5 in the morning, and after spending some time in the airport buying alcohol (highly recommended as it’s duty free and alcohol in Iceland is very expensive) we headed over to Blue Car Rental by 6 am. The process was super easy on their website when I booked the car in advance, and they have a handy video on their website to help you walk to their office from the airport, which is basically just across the parking lot of the airport. Really close.
We walked over, our car was ready to go — a Mercedes Benz GLE — and we were on our way to Reykjavik in no less than 20 minutes from leaving the airport.
If you aren’t familiar with Iceland, the airport is 45 minutes from Reykjavik. I’m sure there are shuttles, but I knew we were going to rent a car from the get-go so I didn’t look into it. Unless you are hiring a driver or having tours pick you up from your hotel every day, you will need to rent a car in Iceland. I’ll be writing an entire post about it, but you need to do it well in advance. I also recommend getting an SUV if you plan to go hiking or do anything off the main streets, which I’d say is likely.
I had prearranged with Blue Car Rental to have Wifi in the car, it’s an add-on that they offer, and it was amazing. It’s a portable Wifi device, so you can use it while driving for GPS on your phones, check your email, I even pulled out my computer a few times. It worked well everywhere where you could get a signal. In some more remote parts — like on a glacier and such — you can’t get a signal, but you don’t need it there. Highly recommend getting Wifi through your car rental if possible! The airport has Wifi also, so really from the second you land, you’ll be connected.
Upon arriving to Reykjavik, it was too early to check into our hotel, so we went to eat at a breakfast spot that was recommended to us called Grái Kötturinn (The Gray Cat). We got there right when it opened and there were already people waiting to get in, and there were people coming in the entire time we were there. The pancakes (which I actually didn’t order but I snuck a bite from my husband) were some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had. He agreed. So, when in doubt, get the pancakes.
After lingering a little at breakfast, our friends who came with us were able to check into their Airbnb, then we checked in at our hotel, Reykjavik Lights, and took a nap for a few hours in the very comfy bed.
Some seasoned travelers will tell you to stay awake as long as possible and get on their time which in most cases I agree, but we all needed a power nap. By lunchtime we were all up and ready to start exploring.
I had done some research on a mysterious waterfall called Bruarfoss which is off the beaten path, not well marked, and hard to find. We were able to find it simply because I had done research and was able to pull the info up on my phone while we were there (thanks to the Wifi hotspot!) to guide us. This post directed me to it, and also the comments in the post have directions. I will say that we ended up parking in the neighborhood, near house 14, and hiking through a few little trails.
We saw a couple getting into a car, they looked like tourists, and we asked them if we were on the right path, they said yes and pointed us in the right direction. Otherwise there wasn’t anyone around as we were in a neighborhood with very spaced out homes and pothole ridden gravel roads. I was glad we had an SUV for those roads!
Once we were on the right path we saw a sign that said Bruarfoss, so we knew we were close. Another couple, from New Jersey, came down the path and told us it was muddy but was their favorite waterfall they had seen the entire trip! I’ll do a full post with all of my photos from Bruarfoss and more details, but they were right. It was incredible.
The water is just unbelievably blue. It’s gorgeous. You are rubbing your eyes thinking, is this really real? Absolutely worth everyone thinking I was nuts for driving into a neighborhood and walking on random paths with no signs.
After the muddy hike there and back, where I fell on my bum twice due to having zero traction on my rain boots (I had ordered new boots but they didn’t arrive in time), and finally done taking a million photos it was time to move on. We decided to skip the second waterfall we had planned to see because it was the late afternoon and it was another hour away. Instead we opted to head to the geothermal baths at Laugarvatn Fontana on our way back to Reykjavik.
Don’t worry, if you wanted to see/hear more about the Bruarfoss Waterfall I’ll be doing a full post soon with a video!
At Laugarvatn Fontana we soaked in the hot hot water, and the boys took the plunge into the freezing cold lake. I did not get in the cold water, I was all for 100% hot water. Laugarvatn Fontana has several different pools with different temperatures and steam saunas. They have food, drinks, and good facilities for showering and getting dressed again after your time there.
When going to a geothermal bath, I recommend planning to stay there for a while. Some of them are expensive, Laugarvatn Fontana is around $33 per person just to get in. And then the food and drinks are expensive and you can’t bring your own in. I mean I guess you can try, but you aren’t supposed to. So basically I would treat it like an experience and stay a while. I really wanted to find the smaller, lesser known, no map to them, geothermal rivers where we would be the only ones there and we could drink our own wine, but that would take a lot more time in Iceland than we had.
We spent about an hour soaking and then got ready to head back to Reykjavik for our reservations at Grillið. The restaurant is located on the top of a hotel in Reykjavik, so the view during our dinner was gorgeous. We watched the sunset as we dined. Gisli Jensson, the head sommelier, was delightful and I loved his wine pairings with the tasting menu.
After dinner, we went back to our hotel and called it a night. Waterfalls, geothermal baths, and wine — successful first day in Iceland.
So many more posts and videos to come from Iceland — stay tuned!
Photos by Meg Biram.
This post was done in partnership with WOW Air, Reykjavik Lights Hotel, Grillið, and Blue Car Rental. All opinions are honest and are my own.