Just Two Bros in Iceland
As everyone knows, Iceland has experienced a tourism boom since the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010. The Icelandic government worried the country would take a major hit as a result. Instead they responded with a major publicity campaign & in the time since, has jumped from 465,000 tourists in 2009 to an estimated 1.8 million 7 2017 is set to finish around 2.4 million. Whitney A, Steven Samuel Fisher, Ali B, & I contributed to that number.
Over 11 days, we spent 6 days in Reykjavik & 4 days on the Laugavegur Trek.
Whitney A & I flew Canada Air through Toronto International Airport to get to Reykjavik. I’ll make this quick. Air Canada is easily one of the worst flights we’ve ever taken. Every flight was late leaving or arriving, you had to pay for your drinks & the 4 1/2 hour leg of the flight from Toronto to Iceland didn’t have TVs while the 1 1/2 hour flight did. Toronto International is a mess. Their security rules vary from check point to check point & although they have nice bars, the drinks are priced to bankrupt.
Whit & I got off the plane & met Steve at Keflavik International. The three of us hopped a bus to the Blue Lagoon. Although super touristy, the Lagoon is worth a look. Outdoor health pools are very common in Iceland & the Blue Lagoon is one of the largest. Some nice features are the baggage check for tourists & the swim up bar in the pool. Try Iceland’s homemade beer, Gull, it definitely doesn’t disappoint.
Our bus took us & it’s other passengers into Reykjavik & made multiple stops making sure each passenger got exactly where they needed to go. For us that place was Reykjavik Downtown Hostel located on Vesturgata St. in the heart of the action, & would be our home for the next 5 nights. Steve & Whit got a private room & I jumped from a four person room to a 10 person after the first night. That evening we checked out a couple of spots around town & the one that stuck out the most & a place we’d return to later in the trip was the Drunk Rabbit.
Bars in Reykjavik although fun, are very expensive. If you can get to a Vínbúðin, Iceland’s one & only liquor store chain & run by the government, I recommend it. A pint typically runs about 10 króna or about $10 usd, at Vínbúðin the same beer will run you around 3 króna. Also liquor laws allow for open containers in public so grab a couple tall boys & explore.
Don’t let the last paragraph deter you from checking out some of the local bars. Like I said before, the Drunk Rabbit had so much to offer. An Irish pub in the heart of downtown. We happened to meet two traveling Irish folk musicians who were playing for everyone right at their table. We also met Mariana the Slovakian bartender who moved there to be with her sister who was a nurse. She ended up taking care of us the next two times we went.
The next day Whit had an excursion planned with dive.is for us to snorkel Silfra also known as the spot where the North American tectonic plates meet Europe’s. You can also dive the location, but it requires a dry suit certification which we could’t get before we went.
Fear not, the snorkeling is more than enough to get a good glimpse into the split. Our guides Chris & Bart were funny, knowledgeable & made the trip very easy. They supply all the gear & help you dress. They take you to the water, tell you a couple ridiculous jokes & that’s pretty much it. Once you’re in the water it’s silence & isolation. Your face pierces the water’s surface you can immediately see down into the Earth’s crust. Chris said it’s possible to see over 300 ft down with the naked eye. The other great thing about the excursion is they pick you up & drop you off in the same spot so getting to & from is easy & convenient.
We spent the rest of the day walking up & down Laugavegur Street. Lebowski bar is a tribute to the Cohen Brother’s timeless cult classic. Bragging 24 different styles of White Russian & some of the coolest Lebowski style decorations. As usual the drinks were pricy but totally worth it if you’re a fan. The owner did a great job showing love for the movie & not letting it slip into the tourist favorite “theme’s for a quick buck.”
Day 3 began with a Puffin & Whale Watching tour through Whale Safaris. I’m sure the other tour companies are great but I’m going to preach the good word of W.S. They supply the gear as well as experienced tour guides & boat captains. You have the option to jump on a larger style ship that moves around slowly as you try to catch up & catch a glimpse of the Minky Whales that live near port or a much smaller boat that holds about 12 people & moves around pretty quick. Our captain demonstrated did donuts just outside the harbor. The puffins were a fun feature of the boat tour but beware Puffins may be smaller than they appear… on Google images.
Our fourth & certainly not least, Ali B arrived that day, adding just a little more pizzaz to our already thriving Iceland Crew. For her first day we went & checked out one of the tallest buildings in the country, Hallgrimskirkja, a church standing at 74.5 meters high. Designed by Guðjón Samúelsson in 1937 although construction didn’t start until 1945 as Iceland was in the middle of war. It was finally completed in 1986. Samúelsson passed away in 1950 long before it’s completion.
The next two days were spent in a rental car, exploring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula & Southern sides of Iceland. Each morning before we hit the road we stopped by Cafe Haiti for some fantastic breakfast with a great view and service. The first stop was Skaftafell National Park, although we didn’t have time to walk on the glacier or see the ice cave, we squeezed in a nice little hike & saw our first & certainly not last waterfall. Other points of interest include the Hvalfjörður Fjords, the Black Beach & Skógafoss waterfall in Skógar. All unique & beautiful places to visit. If you want your Instagram to look pro, pop off a couple pics at anyone of these places.
The second day of the excursion we visited an Algae Pool spa in Snæfellsbær called Lýsuhóll geothermal pool. A swimming pool & two hot tubs full of algae set amongst mountains that’s meant to revitalize the skin. We had lunch in a small oceanside town Helen & visited the Kirkjuffel volcano. You can’t drive up to or hike it anymore as it’s fenced off for reasons I’m unaware of.
Day 6 said goodbye to Steve & put Whitney A, Ali B, & I on a bus to Landmannalaugar to start the Laugavegur Trail. This was the longest camping/ hiking journey Whit & I had ever done. We went 54.7 kms to Þórsmörk Volcano Huts & added 23.5 kms back to Skógar & finished at the top of the waterfall.
Be prepared, the weather in Iceland is ever changing. For the most part we got lucky & had no major weather problems, except Laugavegur day one. We had wind, ice, snow, rain, & when we got to our first camp about 14.4 kms into the hike we were surprised with a couple of rangers telling us we had to move onto the next camp as there was a high powered wind storm ready to tear through the mountains. Another 14 kms & more aggravating weather we finally got to camp #2. This campsite was amazing, it came with a small bar/ restaurant & a friendly German traveler named Raphael who we’d continue to see along the way.
The first day of hiking made us nervous that we’d get caught in shitty weather again & as a result the three of us went the rest of the 29.9 kms to the Volcano huts. Whitney slipped in mud right on her ass & I quietly laughed in the distance, but it didn’t stop there as about 7 seconds later she slipped into a river. Boo to wet boots.
The weather was beautiful at the huts. We calmly set up camp & went into their restaurant/ bar & drank hot chocolate all night. We also decided one more day there wouldn’t be so bad so we stayed the following day too & hung out in the sauna & did a small 4.8 kilometer hike into neighboring mountains.
The last & final day of the hike saw us going 23.5 kms back to Skógar. A beautiful hike covered in rocks, snow, waterfalls, & an absolute pain after having completed the original 54.7 kms, but well worth it. Alli B, and I got to the end & were greeted by Raphael & future friend Roussel, the Brazilian teacher living in England & traveler. Whitney stumbled up about 45 minutes later in a knee brace that a strapping young Aussie man gave to her out on the trail. Camp set-up ensued, and Raphael swooped in to save the day as Whitney and Alli’s tent poles snapped. Burgers and beers followed by a bottle of whiskey to celebrate the trek had us all in our tents asleep by 8:00PM.
If you decide you want to do the trek, be sure to bring with a backpack cover, cash or card, water shoes, & plenty of layers, you will go through them. Anything can happen out there.
Finally it was time to say goodbye to Laugavegur, so we caught an early bus back to Reykjavik the following day. We stayed at Kex Hostel for our final night. It’s a very cool very hip hostel that gets high praise from us. It’s not too far from downtown & houses it’s own bar & restaurantm, & they allow their guests to leave baggage their as they travel around the country.
Whit & Alli Bizzle got sheep tattoos at a local parlor from a couple American tattoo artists. We also happened to wander into Iceland’s Pride Parade. The city was popping! Our final night we stopped in & saw Mariana at the Drunk Rabbit one last time & headed off to get our dance on at Pablo Disco Bar with our new friend and stupendous dancer Roussel. We danced our asses off, and headed back to get some sleep before an early morning flight.
Iceland left us with no money, great memories, new friends, some sweet new Instagram posts, a couple of sheep tattoos, and Whitney A. in physical therapy for 2 months. Until next time Iceland. Cheers.