Ahhhh I still cannot believe I did this. I went to freaking ICELAND! Recently it’s become less of an underrated destination, and a ton of my friends have gone in the past couple of years. Most are able to afford the trip thanks to the extremely low airfare prices via IcelandAir and WOW Air (but they get you with the baggage fees). The country is a breath of fresh air (literally, I swear the air there feels so much cleaner) and rich with natural wonders. What it lacks in bustling city (and flavorful cuisine), it makes up for in authentic natural beauty.

Iceland is part of Europe, but is separate from the EU, and therefore uses the Krona, their local currency. Everyone we encountered spoke fluent English and their own Icelandic language (as proven by our cashier at Hagkaup, who couldn’t get over how crazy the state of Florida is). Visiting isn’t hard since we were able to communicate with everyone… the only drawback was the cost of EVERYTHING! It’s so much more expensive (and that’s even compared to Los Angeles).

We airbnb’d near Reykjavik and spent the first day driving around the Golden Circle, a famous driving tour in Iceland. While we couldn’t hit all of the spots, we did make it to most of the major ones and they did not disappoint.

Iceland backpacking trip seljalandsfoss waterfall

If you you’ve seen a waterfall and think you’re done and have it crossed off your bucket list, think again. Seljalandsfoss was the first one of many that we stopped at and it. was. breathtaking. I’ve seen a waterfall or two, but none that tower 200 hundred feet above ground. Maybe it’s because it was the first, but this one certainly left the most lasting impression on me. I remember the time of day being perfect: the air was cool and the sun was out. We drove up to the gravel lot and looked out and couldn’t believe it.

Since I’m from the United States, I don’t take for granted the freedom to get close to things — meaning, the ability to actually walk under the waterfall was incredible! (and I’d imagine one that would be closely guarded here in the States). The spray from the water left us soaked, but I know I would have regretted not braving the drench.

After, we drove a few miles until we found the somewhat hidden lot for the Seljavallalaug ancient pool, Iceland’s oldest pool. If you spend too much time on the internet, you’ve probably seen pics of it… and it lived up to the beauty of the photographs. Even more, the 20-minute walk to it was along streams, through a beautiful valley. We were unsure of the pool at first and didn’t end up bringing our towels, but thankfully one of our crew volunteered to grab them when we saw that it did, in fact, exist! Funny to think we even debated about going in… but the argument “well, we came all the way here” won out (I know I would’ve been kicking myself if we hadn’t taken the plunge — no pun intended 😉 ). You wouldn’t know it, but the bottom is super slimy from the algae. The pool is “temperature-controlled,” via a natural system of streaming in boiling water from the mountain and filtered out into the adjacent stream.

Iceland backpacking trip seljavallalaug ancient pool

Iceland backpacking trip seljavallalaug ancient pool

Iceland backpacking trip seljavallalaug ancient pool

Next up was waterfall #2, Skogafoss. Not one waterfall is exactly alike! This one had a stairwell to the top of the waterfall, at the top where there was a high valley overlooking the edge — almost a bit too much thrill, as someone who gets an adrenaline overdose from heights (not to be confused with being afraid of heights!)

Iceland backpacking trip skogafoss waterfall

Iceland backpacking trip skogafoss waterfall

The city of Reykjavik is cute: from what we saw of it, it was small, colorful, and clean. In our limited time before heading to our 2 p.m. reservation at Blue Lagoon, we stopped by the Hallgrimskirkja church and Harpa Concert Hall to see the iconic architecture. They’re both beautiful in their own ways, and are built in a modern, angular style that play with light and shapes in a fun way.

Iceland backpacking trip harpa concert hall
Harpa Concert Hall

And of course, what would a trip to Iceland be without Blue Lagoon? Thankfully, we made reservations in advance, and our package included everything we needed: towels (no, they aren’t complimentary), face masks, and a free beverage of choice 😉 Before going in, we’d heard that the high sulfur content of the water kills your hair, so we slathered on conditioner in the shower before heading in. It felt GOOD. Wow the water was so warm and light; it was like being in a jacuzzi, except you don’t sweat or feel gross, and there’s always a cool breeze above the water to make you snuggle back in. And it’s 100 times the size and there’s tons of people everywhere. The service and bathrooms were decked out, with mirror setups I wouldn’t mind in my own house and even a few amenities.

All in all, Iceland was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. For me, the best parts of the country were its raw, authentic, natural beauty… the kind that really feels real and untouched; enough to remind you that there are parts of the planet that continue to thrive without destructive human influence, and that there are people who live right next door and find it normal and just another view of their backyard (crazy, right?!). The vibe is calm, fresh, and unexpectedly cozy (ironically, since it was pretty cold). Maybe it’s because it feels isolated from the rest of the world, but in a good way.

Unfortunately I couldn’t include every detail in this recap, and even those I did, I’m afraid my words didn’t do the feelings justice. I can see why Iceland is a place that’s found its way on so many bucket lists, and one box I’m glad I can check off at least once.

Watch the vlog for MORE! Including hot dogs (they’re a thing, I promise), Dyrhólaey, and everything else.

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