Monday, July 7, 2014

Iceland in Numbers

  • Five days, two people, one car, and about....thirty-one sandwiches.

We did it! We made it to Iceland from Washington D.C. in one piece. Our first stop on our trip can only be described as epic. Everything about road tripping in Iceland was stunningly surreal. It was beautiful, jarring, confusing and just so completely unique.  We only saw and did a tiny portion of what there is to see and do and our minds were continuously blown.

So rewind to June 25th: Exhausted from our sleepless journey over the Atlantic we picked up our rental car in Keflavik and drove the 25 minutes to the northern most capital in the World and the home of one third of Iceland’s population, Reykjavik. 

We were zombies on wheels and it was foggy and cold but Reykjavik still did it’s best to charm us. The splashes of color in both the buildings and street art cheered us. I particularly liked the cheeky names of bars and shops, my personal favorite: The Chuck Norris Grill. 
We slept that night in the Reykjavik City Hostel and camping ground and woke up the next morning to start what would be four days of ridiculous and wild beauty.

 Iceland is the country for a road trip.

 The ring road is Iceland's only highway. It runs all the way around the island. Because we were only there for a couple days we decided just to drive along the south coast and up into the eastern town of Hofn for their annual lobster festival. We made it and on the way we dipped our toes in a lake with icebergs floating in it, swam in pools and rivers heated by volcanic energy, drove through endless fields of purple flowers, climbed in, up, and around unreal waterfalls, ate the freshest lobster I've ever had, walked in between two tectonic plates, walked on black sand, slept through endless sunny nights, and (attempted) to speak the only living language that uses runes.

So- The Numbers:
Duration: 5 days- Reykjavik (2), On the road (3)

Distance: Around 1255 km/ 780 miles (!)- We are not exactly sure because we got lost a couple times and deviated from our plans to pick up a couple of hitchhikers,visit random waterfalls...and got lost more. We think we spent a total of 15-ish hours driving.

Dollars spent: $1047. 91 total, which breaks down to $104.80 per person per day. Considering that Iceland is the 5th most expensive country in the world we were pretty proud of ourselves. Look out for an upcoming post about how we managed to see so much for so little.

Icelandic horses seen: About 300 including two teeny foals that had been born just that morning!

Sheep seen: Approximately 200 for every person we saw.

Icelandic sheep we almost ran over: 3- good thing our rental had some solid brakes.

Nights spent in a rental car: 4

Hours of darkness: 0

Naturally hot bodies of water we bathed in: 5 including a hot river, a pool at the base of a glacier, and a pool on the beach with Damien Rice (a crazy story for another time)

Glaciers seen: 2 including Europe's largest, Vatnajokull.

Sandwiches eaten: 31- To save money we went to the local grocery and brought bread and sandwich makings and ate them for almost every meal, save for a gorgeous meal at Pakkhus in Hofn and the famous Icelandic hotdog place, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur.

Waterfalls sighted: countless...they were everywhere. Beautiful tall and skinny ones, ones that were huge and powerful, ones that seemed to come from the middle of the rock. Stunning. I will probably write an entire separate post.

The most delicious langoustine ever consumed: 8 each (yum!)

Times Tom used an expletive to describe something: every 5 minutes "Look at that f@$%ing mountain!", "Oh my God there's a f@$%ing waterfall! And there's one, and there's one!"

Iceland Superlatives

Things we like about Iceland: 
Tom- The mountains, the scale. How big and impressive everything was. Waterfalls falling out of everything and how quickly the landscape changed.
Danielle- I loved the wildness of it all. Iceland makes you feel the force of nature in the thermal power, the freezing glaciers, the rushing waterfalls, the sheer size of the mountains.  Driving for hours without seeing another person. The hotdogs were weird in a good way too. Tasty cold water.

Things we don't like about Iceland: 
Tom- Water that smelled like stinky egg farts. (Unfortunately, due to the high sulphur content of the thermal springs they smelled bad. Real bad.)
Danielle- Kinda expensive. We skipped a couple things that would have been fun if we had had a higher budget. Like the phallological museum. Oh, and the little lazy Icelandic flies that had a penchant for eyeballs.
Tom testing how hot the stinky egg farts were.

Best moment:
Tom- Tied: Both involving waterfalls, once at Skogafoss and again at Gljufrabui. At both we got to climb up a rock face and see the waterfalls from a different view than normal. The best moment was that first second getting to the top and looking down...
Danielle- Walking into the crevice in the rock face blocking Gljufrabui from view and into the cave. We were sopping wet with waterfall spray in a dark cave and all of sudden the waterfall seems to pour out of the sky. Or dipping my toes into a crystal clear glacial lagoon.

Worst moment:
Tom-Sleeping in the car the night before we left for Manchester. We had returned our rental sleeping bags and pillows so we were extremely uncomfortable and freezing. We barely slept.
Danielle- Ugh..same.

Best thing we ate:
Tom-Langoustine! Warm, buttery, fresh, and delicious.
Danielle- Yeah. You could see the boat that caught them out the window.

Worst thing we ate:
Tom- The first sandwich we ate from a bakery in Reykjavik on the first day.
Danielle- WAY too much mayonnaise. Too much. mayo.

Favorite tourist destination:
Tom- Skogafoss or Gulfoss. Skogafoss because it was just beautiful and massive and that bada** little cliff thing. Gulfoss was just so massive and powerful. It was just truly awesome.
Danielle- I can't even. They all had something great.

Most overrated attraction:
Tom- Geysir. It was cool, but it smelled like egg farts and was just a little bit too touristy. The shop sold cans of "Fresh Icelandic Mountain Air" for 1100 Kronor, or like 13 bucks, just to give you an idea of the touristy-ness. I hope the air in there didn't smell like the Geysir did...
Danielle- Thingvellir national park. Not that it was overrated, I actually thought it was really cool. It was just pretty crowded compared to the rest of the sights we visited in Iceland and it kind of detracted from the experience for me. And the toilets cost three bucks.

Oddest experience:
Tom- This one is easy. The oddest experience for me was waking up at 4 in the morning to the sound of a sheep going, "BAAAAAA" about ten feet from the car window, and it still being light outside. 
Danielle-We went to Hofn for the lobster festival, expecting there to be tons of visitors and lots of people in general. Turned out we were pretty much the only non-Hofners there. In a town of just 1000 people we stuck out. Still we wanted to experience the festival. So we follow this large group of townspeople into this shipping warehouse.We walk in and on our left was the catwalk. Directly to our right was a ...boat. Filled with kids and dogs.Turns out we had walked into the spring collection of the local Hofn clothes designer. So there we are watching the teens of the town march to house beats with their mum's and baby siblings. It was great.

Would we visit again? Suggest to a friend?:
Tom- Ooooooh yeah.
Danielle- In a heartbeat. I'd go back tomorrow.

 Have you ever been to Iceland? Did you find it expensive? What would be your favorite sight? Could you sleep in a car to save money?


  1. This looks incredible. Iceland has been on my 'must visit' list for a while now, and every time I see photos of it, I remember why. Simply gorgeous.

    I'd love to do a road trip too. Ideally I'd like to take a couple of weeks and drive right around the ring road. Though Rekjavik looks like an awesome place too! Thanks for sharing and boosting my wanderlust... as though it needed any more of a boost! :-)

  2. Hi Katie,
    Part of me wishes we had known how fabulous it was going to be and we would have done at least ten days and done the whole ring road. I think maybe we would have sprung for a car we could sleep in a little more comfortably too. It was seriously seriously beautiful and I go back in a heart beat. Thanks for reading and I'm glad you liked it :)

  3. I haven't been to Iceland, but I'm hoping to visit in 2015. I'm positively surprised to hear how cheap you managed to do it - I actually thought I was way more expensive!

  4. Oh man! It's still one of the highlights of our trip for me six months later. I'm thinking about writing a post about how we saved but essentially we rented the cheapest car we could find and then slept in it. Gas was terrifyingly expensive so we calculated exactly how much we would need. We also ate groceries mostly with the exception of one fancy meal. We actually are spending a little more in Paris right now...le sigh. When were you thinking of going? Summer was beautiful!

  5. Hey Danni! Loved reading your round-up of Iceland! I found myself laughing and nodding with agreement to many of your comments! Gullfoss is definitely my fav on the Golden Circle Route too and I thought Thingvellir was less visually 'wow' but I guess it's the history and location of it that adds to its interest. As for the rest, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon blew my mind, and I loved Skogass and another called Skaftafell, not sure if you visited it?

    I hope Tom wasn't moaning about the eggy fart smell too much ;-) Gotta get used to that in Iceland haha!

    I'm so jealous that you made it to Hofn for the Lobster festival, but it gives me another reason to keep on exploring Iceland, eh?

  6. You have followed a similar route to ours in August :)) Sure you would recognize the photos . Iceland left me speechless