The Land of Fire and Ice: Iceland

von vogue iceland travel akureyri


To be honest, Iceland was never really on my to-go list. But when my friend asked me if I wanted to visit Iceland back in last October, I said yes immediately without any hesitation. Interestingly, after a few months, several articles have considered Iceland as one of the popular places that you should visit in lifetime! I was in Iceland with my friends for a week. The first two days we stayed in Reykjavik, following by a 2-day trip with a tour group to east southern Iceland. The next day we flied to Akureyri, stayed there for one night, got back to Reykjavik for one more night before heading back to Canada. The schedule might sound a bit intense but I was glad that I made it through and had a great time to explore Iceland. If you ever plan to go, or already have the flight and hotel booked, this article will guide you through my personal experience and general tips about this Land of Fire and Ice.

ALL PHOTOGRAPHY by Claire Liu


REYKJAVIK
von vogue iceland travel reykjavik downtown
WHERE I
          STAYED

22 HILL - located about 5 minute walk from the downtown area. It’s quiet and clean. Comfy beds, friendly staffs and delicious breakfast.

AIRBNB - girls, if you are travelling with a giant luggage alone, you might want to stay away from Airbnb. Most of the old apartments do not have an elevator, so that means you need to carry it up and down if you stay on higher floor. Yes, you do get larger space but I prefer hotels next time since they offer great breakfast selection.

WHERE I
          DINED

BÆJARINS BEZTU PYLSUR (hot dog stand) - I was skeptical about this place, because I never imaged how popular a hot dog can be, right? But after tasted it personally, I have to admit that it was so good! I don’t know if it’s because of the mayo or the crispy onions, there is something good about this hot dog!

GAMLA VINHUSID STEAKHOUSE - came here for a glass of wine. The house white wine was perfect. A very relaxing environment where you can actually enjoy wine with your friends for longer time.
GEYSIR BISTRO REYKJAVIK - a family-friendly restaurants. The portion is fairly large. They do have some exotic dishes on the menu - horse meat, whale, and puffin. I like to stick with my veggies :)

HRESSÓ HRESSINGARSKÁLINN - live music and tons of beer choices. But I would suggest not to stay too late because there might be some creeps and drunk people out there.

MAI THAI MARKET AND BISTRO - a very authentic Thai restaurant with a mini market that sells all the Thai food. My favourite dish was the Tom Yum soup with noodle (or rice if you prefer).
ROK RESTAURANT - a very beautifully decorated bistro. It’s a bit pricy but the good selection of wine and great appetizer.

VALDÍS (ice cream) - if you are craving for ice cream during late night, this would be the place to go. It’s located a bit far from the downtown area, but definitely worth a try! They also have vegan options.

YOU MIGHT LOVE...
BONUS SUPERMARKET - the local supermarket to buy grocery and other local stuffs. We came here to grab some fruits and snacks for our road trip - a way to save money if you don’t want to dine out everyday.

von vogue iceland travel reykjavik downtown street view
WHERE I
          VISITED



BLUE LAGOON - it’s about 20-30 minutes from KEF airport so you should come here after or before your flight (about 1 hour of driving from and to Reykjavik downtown). If you arrive early, then you should visit Blue Lagoon when it’s just open. Don’t forget to try sauna and steam room. (Tip: if you’re not that hungry or have your own food, you should avoid buying food from the cafe over there. I got a regular grilled panini and a bottle of fruit drink, that costed me more than CAD $40, so I mean why not spend that amount on somewhere nice!)

REYKJAVIK DOWNTOWN - there are many cute shops and restaurants along Hverfisgata. The west end gets crowded on Friday and weekend nights (night clubs and pubs in that area).
von vogue iceland travel blue lagoon
von vogue iceland travel Þingvellir Thingvellir national park
ÞINGVELLIR - be sure to get ready with your camera because of the spectacular views of mountain scenery. The view looks like a postcard and it was insanely beautiful.

GULLFOSS - be prepared to cover yourself with some mist in the air coming from the waterfall. You might be able to see rainbow if you’re lucky enough! There is a gift shop/cafe nearby. The Iceland soup at the cafe was delicious and fed me very well. For about CAD $17, you can refill the bowl if one is not enough.
von vogue iceland travel Gullfoss waterfalls
von vogue iceland travel Haukadalur geysir
HAUKADALUR - a must-visit attraction in Iceland. You’ll meet the two famous geysers, Geysir and Strokkur. The original Geysir stops eruption for now, but a second one called Strokkur erupts up to 40 metres high in every 6 -10 minutes.
WATERFALLS - there are many astonishing waterfall attractions along the southern coast of Iceland, including Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. I feel that the best way to enjoy is to come here early to avoid crowd. And don't forget to bring your raincoat - it's going to be super wet!
von vogue iceland travel Skogafoss waterfalls
von vogue iceland travel Seljalandsfoss waterfalls
von vogue iceland travel black sand beach Reynisdrangar
von vogue iceland travel black sand beach Jokulsarlon diamond beach

REYNISDRANGAR & BLACK SAND BEACH - many of you might dream of lying down on the white sand beach on one of the tropical island, but what about black sand beach? This location was on my to-go list and absolutely loved it the minute I walked toward the beach. I found it to be more mystery and fascinating with fog in the air and waves crashing over the beach.

JOKULSARLON - one of my favourite places in Iceland. After taking photos for a while, I stopped myself and listened carefully to my surroundings. It was the most quiet place, you hear nothing except icebergs drifting and colliding against each other. The best part was to see seals swimming freely in the water. Great place for soul and mind meditation.
von vogue iceland travel Jokulsarlon lake iceberg lake
von vogue iceland travel Jokulsarlon lake iceberg lake


AURORA

Before I went to Iceland, a friend told me that the Northern Lights don't actually look like in the pictures you found on the Internet - they look colourless when you see them with your naked eyes. And he was right! It was 12 A.M. and I could feel the cold in the air when breathing. Everyone got their tripod and camera ready and was waiting for the Northern Lights to show up. I was doing some testing on my camera so I took a few photos. As I scrolled through the testing photos, I realized something looked unusual in the last one. I quickly looked up the sky but found nothing. It was pitch dark, except the stars shining bright in the sky. I started taking more photos, went through the photos again and heard a few voices beside me:

"Oh my God! Is that what it is?!"

Yep, the Aurora was just right in front of us! Interestingly that I barely saw any green lights in the sky since we were so far away from the lights but my camera did capture those dancing guys (the way the lights moved looked like they were dancing).

We were fortune enough to be able to see the Aurora for the first time because the first few days of our trip were just raining. It was such a unique experience, definitely something I won't forget! A tip: if you want to capture the Norther Lights, you should get a great DSLR and a solid tripod. Unless the Aurora is right above you, you'd have a difficult time to capture them with your phone camera.

von vogue iceland travel aurora northern lights


AKUREYRI
von vogue iceland travel akureyri road trip winter




WHERE I
          STAYED

HOTEL KEA BY KEAHOTELS - since we only stayed in Akureyri for one night, I decided to choose this hotel due to its convenient location. It’s close to travel agency, restaurants and airport (5 minutes drive). And amazing breakfast selection too!
von vogue iceland travel akureyri road trip winter
von vogue iceland travel Godafoss waterfalls


WHERE I
          DINED

STRIKIÐ - a fine dining restaurant to spoil yourself if you’re tired of eating hot dogs and noodle cups. Beautiful food presentation (amazing taste), breathtaking view, and helpful staffs.

AKUREYRI FISH & CHIPS - the portion was huge, but not my favourite. I had a better one in London (not too oily and it was perfect), but if you’re craving for fish and chips, you can give it a try.
von vogue iceland travel Dimmuborgir

WHERE I
          VISITED

GODAFOSS - another waterfall location… I mean if you don’t get bored with it :)

DIMMUBORGIR - or called the Dark Castles, a large area composed of lava rock formations. Ironically, we came here in February so everything was covered in snow. The trail can take more than a hour so be prepared to have some water bottles with you if you decide to take longer trail.

MYVATN LAKE - we were the first one to arrive the lake in that morning so the whole place was ours for a while. We climbed up a few stairs and overlooked the iced lake covered in snow. It was literally a beautiful Winter Wonderland.

JARDBODIN (nature bath) - don’t get me wrong, but I feel Myvatn nature bath is 110% better than Blue Lagoon. The place is surrounded by mountains so that means great view to enjoy while taking the hot bath. It’s less crowded and is more aesthetically pleasing. This place is not overpriced and overdeveloped like Blue Lagoon - not saying you should skip Blue Lagoon but I strongly recommend to visit here if you ever get a chance to travel to Northern Iceland.

NAMASKARD - one of the coolest places in Iceland! A myriad of hot mud springs in widely different colors, with hot steam surrounding you. Just image yourself to be walking on the Martian terrain.
von vogue iceland travel Myvatn Lake winter
von vogue iceland travel akureyri Jardbodin nature bath
von vogue iceland travel akureyri Namaskard


AND WHAT TO BRING

Waterproof jacket, pants and boots - if you’re going to Iceland during winter time, the best gear you would appreciate later are waterproof jacket, pants and boots. Those would keep you dry and clean through rain and fog, especially if you’re going to visit several waterfall locations. For boots, I highly recommend to get a pair of winter hiking boots (brands like Santana Canada, Sorel etc.) - they are great for hiking, snowshoeing and keeping your toes toasty warm. Or just get a long raincoat and you should be fine.

Base layers - trust me, you don’t want to look ridiculously bulky in that multilayers of sweaters. Base layers would be your best friends.

Travel mug - since everything is relatively expensive in Iceland and it’s likely that you’d be on the road for a while, you might want to bring your own mug (a good one that keeps your coffee warm). Recommendation: Zojirushi is known for their quality. I got this one and it keeps my water hot even after 12 hours.

von vogue iceland travel akureyri iceland horse

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