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Preparations for our Iceland trip in March
Flight to Iceland in March
After numerous hours of planning and researching, the day finally arrived. It was a Friday afternoon, and I was a nervous wreck. It seems that every year that passes I get more scared of flying. As you can imagine, being on a plane for more than 7 hours, with the majority of the flight spent over the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans was not helpful to the situation.
My first transatlantic flight.
The flight was with Icelandair, and surprisingly (at least for me
) it was full. There are not many times on which I am glad to be only 5’0 feet “tall,” but I’m telling you, it was a tight fit in coach. Since it was an overnight flight, I had planned to sleep during the flight to avoid jet lag. Click here for 9 Tips from Travel Bloggers on How to Avoid Jet Lag.
Well, life doesn’t always go as planned, and I did not sleep at all. Did I mention I had a full schedule after arriving? Anyways, we arrived at 6:00 AM safe and sound, and I saw through the airplane window what I have wanted to see for years. Snow! It was not a lot, just a few chunks of ice here and there on the runway but at that point that was good enough for me.
After deplaning, I purchased a SIM kit from Nova in one of the gift stores. However, after further research, I realized Simmin
was probably a better choice (price-wise and because Nova’s mobile app is only in Icelandic
). Then, we went to pick up our car rental and headed to our first destination: the Blue Lagoon.
Pathway on the entrance of the Blue Lagoon.
My Husband and I were enjoying the cold weather.
Water from the Blue Lagoon near the entrance.
The Blue Lagoon Spa in March
The Blue Lagoon Spa was an excellent remedy for the jet lag, especially after being awake for more than 24 hours. We had bought our tickets online and received a “Good-to-Know tips before your visit” e-mail that was useful. I recommend booking a time first thing in the morning to avoid crowds.
Yes, it might be freezing. But by the time we left (about noon) the lockers and showers were extremely crowded. The check-in line went by pretty fast, even if it wasn’t short. Also, the staff was very polite, while still enforcing their rules.
I consider the Blue Lagoon to be a one-time experience in life. There are better and cheaper hot baths in Iceland (Myvatn Nature Baths were excellent, will talk more about them later), but I still think going to the Blue Lagoon Spa is a must even if it’s considered a tourist trap by some.
Feeling refreshed, we were ready to go to Reykjavik, where we were going to spend the night. Because it was still early for check-in, we had time to go to Hallgrímskirkja and wander a little bit through Iceland’s capital. I also had time to slip on the ice a few times.
Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavik
Finally, it was time to check-in. At that point, we were close to 35 hours without sleep and ready for a nap.
We stayed at a charming property a short drive from the city center (Guesthouse Helga-which is now closed), where you could experience ‘Icelandic suburbia’. The room was cozy, the bathroom comfortable, and the host helpful.
Be warned that if you are not used to it, taking a bath in Iceland takes some time to get used to (you can ask my husband).
The water frequently smells like rotten eggs, because of the high content of sulfur in the water as a consequence of its geothermal origins. Curiously, the smell does not stay on your skin.
After a well-deserved nap we were starving, and ready to try some local food. What I wasn’t prepared for was that almost every restaurant in Reykjavik was fully booked for the night (it was Saturday).
We ended up eating at Meze, a Turkish restaurant in downtown Reykjavik. It was cozy, and the Moussaka was to die for.
After a long, stressful day I finally felt relaxed. To top it off, I saw through the window of the restaurant, the falling snow. No more chunks of ice on the streets, but fresh snow. My adventure had just started, and I was ready to know the “real” Iceland.
We enjoyed a much needed night of sleep at Guesthouse Helga in Reykjavik and were ready to head out on our adventure. It had snowed overnight, and the suburbs of Reykjavik looked out of a Christmas movie. After shoveling the snow off the SUV (and maybe throwing a few snowballs), we started our drive towards Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park, which is about 40 minutes from Reykjavik.
Driving through Iceland is way less stressful than driving through I4 (mandatory reference for my Florida readers).
We stopped at an N1 Gas Station, and after following every travel blog advice about making sure to have a Pin Number for the Credit Card, we still couldn’t figure out the menu at the pump since it was in Icelandic.
With no time to learn the language, we ended up buying an N1 Prepaid Card that was more straightforward to use. We were lucky though because sometimes the gas stations are unmanned and in that case trying to figure out Icelandic would have been our only option.
Thingvellir National Park in March
Once we were out of Reykjavik, there were almost no cars in sight. Only when we were approaching Thingvellir National Park, we started forming part of a line of cars and buses that were also heading there. There is no charge or entry fee to access the park or its parking.
If you are braver than me, you can book a snorkeling or scuba diving expedition in the Silfra fissure. The Silfra fissure is a crack between the North American and Eurasian continents, and saying that you snorkeled or dived between two continents does sound kind of cool.
View from one of the highest points in Thingvellir National Park.
Is it a Ninja? Nope, just me.
We probably spent 2 to 3 hours walking and hiking through the park, but there were some areas inaccessible because of the amount of snow. Don’t let that deter you from going. The park is not only gorgeous, but it is important in the history of Iceland. It’s also a World Heritage Site.
We are not running away from the Law, we swear.
Blönduós in March
Now we were ready for a 3-hour drive to Blönduós, which is a town between Reykjavik and Akureyri. In those 3 hours, we had sun, rain, snow, more snow, but I can assure you it never got boring.
Once we arrived, I didn’t know what to think. It was eerily quiet, most places were closed, and I hesitated about staying there. I’m glad my husband convinced me to stay because we had a great romantic dinner (for most of the dinner we were the only ones at the restaurant
), and the host at Guesthouse Tilraun-Click Here to Book It!
was great without being intrusive. Everything in the guesthouse was new and clean, and we were able to sleep all night with no issues.
Game of Thrones Tour & Myvatn in March
Next morning we had breakfast at the guesthouse, and we left early for Akureyri, where we had a Game of Thrones tour scheduled for 9:00 AM. From Blönduós to Akureyri it takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes, and we made it just in time. We booked the tour with The Traveling Viking,
and this included a stop in Goðafoss, a spectacular waterfall.
The tour also included a visit to location sites from Game of Thrones around the Myvatn area where they filmed a number of scenes, including scenes “beyond the wall.” We were able to see where the Wildling camp was, and also the cave where Jon Snow and Ygritte, well you know.
Myvatn Lake near the area where the Wildling camp in Game of Thrones was set up.
Should have googled “How to photograph in a cave full of steam?” before going to Iceland.
At the time we went to Myvtan there were also filming a scene from Fast and the Furious 8 in one of the frozen lakes. We had lunch, including the surprisingly delicious Geyser bread, which is baked in the ground near a hot spring. We ended the tour at The Myvatn Nature Baths, and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
A Steam Vent or Fumarole in the Myvtan area.
Myvatn Nature Baths.
After going to the Blue Lagoon, I expected the Myvatn Nature Baths to be similar. I’m glad I was wrong. It was nowhere as crowded as the Blue Lagoon, and the views were out of this world.
For a moment I just stayed there thanking the Universe for giving me the opportunity to experience something like that. Myvatn is the embodiment of the “Island of Fire & Ice” slogan. You are taking a bath in a place that was only made possible because of the high volcanic activity in the area, at the same time that you are surrounded by snow and mountains covered in ice. Yes, the lockers are not as fancy as the ones in the Blue Lagoon nor is the service. But is that really why you go to Iceland?
This tour also included an unexpected stop to see and pet the Icelandic horses. Another person on the guided tour requested it, and we couldn’t have been more grateful when the tour operator agreed to it.
“Is it going to bite my hand?”
My husband had no fear at all. They became BFF’s.
Icelandic Horse doing what it does best.
Akureyri in March
When we arrived at Skjaldarvik Guest House-Click Here to Book It!
, we asked at the Front Desk about a good place for dinner to make a reservation. Well, we got more than that. They even made the reservation for us, and their recommendation was excellent (T-Bone Steakhouse
After dinner, I decided I did not want to leave Akureyri the next day. I had fallen in love with the room, the views, the people that worked at the guesthouse, and with the city. I canceled the reservation in at least two more towns and decided that the Ring Road road trip was going to see some changes.
That same night, just after midnight, we got a knock at the door to let us know the Northern Lights were dancing outside. It was freezing, but at that moment it didn’t matter. I put on a coat on and went outside. Unfortunately, I didn’t know you needed special techniques to take pictures of the Northern Lights, but that was not the time to be upset. I was living one of my dreams and faded into sleep again while watching the Lights from the window of our room.
If you have a Snowmobile, I do envy you a little.
Selfoss in March
Everything has an ending, and it was time to leave Akureyri. However, we still had Vik in our plans, which is in the South of Iceland. On our way there, we stopped in Selfoss under a mixture of ice and rain. My husband is a chess fan, so our next stop was the Bobby Fischer museum. Bobby Fischer was a Chess Grandmaster considered by many the greatest chess player of all time, who had his most famous match in Iceland and also lived there the last years of his life. The movie Pawn Sacrifice (Watch it!)
is based on his life, if you feel like learning more about him.
In Selfoss, we also had to stop at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur for a “famous” Icelandic hot dog. They were good, but after being spoiled by the food in Reykjavik and Akureyri, I wasn’t that impressed.
Scribbles (yes, that’s how I call them) at the Bobby Fischer Museum in Selfoss.
Vik in March
On our way to Vik, we encountered Skógafoss. I say encountered because we didn’t plan for it. We just saw it from the road and had to stop. We also had the great idea of climbing a trail that gives you a view from the top of the waterfall. If you didn’t notice, by a great idea I mean not a great idea. It was windy, cold and I almost lost my glasses. To make things worse, once we reached the top, I had a terrible ear pain that lasted an eternal 10 minutes.
As you can see, there was a little bit of green on the South.
View from the top of the trail in Skógafoss. Just trying to catch my breath.
After the unexpected amount of “exercise,” I was ready to arrive at Vik. We stayed at a comfy farm with a great breakfast called Sólheimahjáleiga Bed & Breakfast-Book It Here!
. The change in the landscape through the island it’s unbelievable, and even the soil looks entirely different from one area to another.
In our mission to find food, we saw the Vik Church, Reynisdrangar (basalt sea stacks), and Black Sand Beach. Sadly, the weather was not the best, and I was not able to obtain “Pinterestable” pictures. The wind was strong, and sometimes there was also rain. I was also aware that people have died to try to get a good picture of Black Sand Beach, which made me more careful than usual.
Sand Black as Tar.
When we left Vik, we still had two nights left in Reykjavik, which we spent at the Hotel Odinsve-Book It Here!
and 21 Hill Hotel-Book It Here!
. Most of the time left was spent browsing the beautiful shops in the city…and eating. I would definitely recommend for Breakfast: Bergsson Mathus and for Lunch & Dinner: Ostabudin and Old Iceland Restaurant (Reservations needed and encouraged!).
Finally, I need to show off these beauties that are now in my home and will always remind me of Iceland and how I need to go back to complete the Ring Road Adventure.
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