After deciding I wanted to do something different, I booked an Iceland trip. I began travelling around Iceland in August with nothing but a tent and a backpack.
It was early March when I was sitting at home looking at trips away. I wanted to do a trip that connected me with nature as well as seeing some amazing sights, I also knew I wanted to do a trip longer than a week or two. I was browsing away on Instagram at some travelling accounts when I saw pictures of Iceland and I thought to myself how amazing it looked. Before doing any more thinking I picked up my bank card and booked flights to Iceland for four weeks. I also booked a hostel for two nights on arriving. I thought if I didn’t book the flights there and then I would analyse the situation too much and not book it. After I booked it and told work, family, and friends that I am going all the usual questions came at me. Things like what about work? What will you do when you get back? Who are you going with? Obviously with close family and friends having worries I started thinking am I doing the right thing as I am going to Croatia for a month as well (blog to come on that). In the end I thought fuck it I want to see some amazing places and what will be will be.
It never really felt like it was going to happen. The year was moving faster than any other year which apparently happens the older you get. Suddenly I have packed everything including my tent and backpacking things as I am doing most of the trip camping around Iceland on the bus. I set out on the third of August for a flight with Iceland Air. The flight is only two hours and twenty minutes which is not as long as I thought it would be. I flew out with my sister who stays with me for four nights. In the end I cancelled the hostel and booked a Air BnB room in the centre of Reykjavik. This worked out for the same price as the hostel but for double the nights. Make sure you check out Air B n B if you are going to Iceland. The hostels are really expensive. Some hostels can be up to £100 a night. Considering you are sharing a room with seven other people that price is insane.
Where in Iceland did I Visit?
Reykjavik – I think this is the most chilled out city I have been to yet and I have been to Amsterdam, so that is a statement. Several people you make small talk with whilst your there all say the same. I haven’t been to a city where one one side of the apartment I was staying in has mountains and the ocean and the other side is a busy street full of people and shops. It has a relaxed vibe, although it can get lively on the night time. I couldn’t comment on the nightlife as I didn’t check it out as I don’t drink alcohol any more. I wouldn’t be able to justify paying the cost of the alcohol here anyway. A pint of beer out there would cost you not far off £10. Its a lovely place to walk round and sight see. Make sure you check out all the churches and museums. You will find it difficult to find anything for free to do in Reykjavik. The National Museum will set you back around £20 but it is interesting. There are several vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Most restaurants have a vegan option. I was chatting to one of the waiters there and he said that in the summer of 2016 (not a Bryan Adams song), Reykjavik had a huge food festival and the first restaurants to sell out were all the veggie ones. As a result all the restaurants are now offering at least one vegan option or it can be made vegan. The movement is growing.
Skogar – This is where they have one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls. It is about 60 metres high and is a natural beauty. I have seen small waterfalls in England before but this one really takes your breath away. There is a camp site right in sight of the waterfall. To wake up by the waterfall is one of the most peaceful things I have done. It is something I highly recommend you doing if you are in Iceland. You will need to self cater here if you are vegan as there are very limited options. There are two restaurants there but only offer either apples or a veggie burger and chips. I am not someone who is willing to risk the veggie burger just in case it wasn’t vegan. You only need to stay here for one night, maximum two. There are some great walks here so if you do stay longer than one night I would recommend you do one of these. The walk from Skogar to Porsmork is about 23km and you will need to carry your things with you. I didn’t do the complete walk but I did speak to several people who did and they said it was amazing. The walk basically follows the river which is full of waterfalls. I left my things at the camp site and just did a 15km round trip. The sights really are beautiful.
Vik – This is now officially my favourite place in the world. When I first arrived at Vik I stood at the bus stop outside the petrol station (which is where majority of Iceland’s bus stops are) looking around thinking there is not much here. You can see the camp site from the bus stop so I headed there. The camp site is one of the coolest sites I stayed at during my travels in Iceland. Reykjavik’s camp site is hands down the biggest and has the most facilities (showers, kitchens, and chill out areas). However, the Vik campsite is surrounded by mountains and just has this good vibe. A lot of camp sites generally cost similar price for the night. I paid anywhere from 1200-2100 Krona. The only downside to this campsite was that unless you showered early then you would miss all the hot water. Reminded me of when I was a kid and my Mum would try not to use all the hot water so I would have to shower with my sisters. Let me just clear this up and say this does not happen now! There are some great walks in Vik that are not to challenging. You can just sit at the top of the mountains and look over Vik which is absolutely stunning. Here is where you get the true feeling of Vik. It has black sand and is surrounded by puffins. The puffins were on my check list for Iceland and I highly recommend it to anyone else. There are not a lot of food choices for vegans in Vik but on the campsite there is a little common room with a microwave and kettle.
Borgarnes – This was my shortest stay in Iceland. I stayed here for two nights. The camp site is not great but was the cheapest one of the four I stayed at. There are no showers on this site which is a big issue for me. I know camping is about ‘roughing’ it as such. However, when you are camping for three weeks you need the shower to keep a little fresh. The things you don’t get told before going camping for three weeks are you will wear the same underwear for a week at a time and the one bowl you have will be used for everything! I’m not going to lie when I first arrived at Borgarnes I was not too impressed. The weather was horrible and I was tired as had to get the 7am bus which meant packing a wet tent away at 5:45am. I also walked in the wrong direction for about 15 minutes when needing the toilet so I wasn’t in the happiest of moods. When you arrive at the bus stop make sure you ask someone for directions to the camp site before just heading a way you think it might be like me. Once I had set up my tent and went for a stroll round Borgarnes I found it has some great things to do. The weather whilst I was in Borgarnes was stunning. After being gloomy and miserable on the arrival it perked up to 18 degrees. The two days of staying there also had over 20 degrees of heat. Someone I got chatting to in Reykjavik said that the west had better weather. This might have just been coincidence, who knows. Borgarnes is not big at all but I spent a few hours in the museum and library just relaxing. Also check out the swimming pool that is in the middle of Borgarnes. It has a indoor and outdoor pool. If you are lucky like I was and get to use the outdoor pool in the sun you will really have to pinch yourself as the views are amazing.
Places to Eat
Glo (Reykjavik) – If you go to Reykjavik then you have to check this place out. Before going to Iceland I was a little worried about the food that was going to be available for vegans. This is because some of the research that I done before going a lot of sources was saying that a lot of the meals were meat heavy. Don’t get me wrong there are only a few vegetarian only restaurants but it was better than I expected. Glo was the best place I have eaten since going vegan. There are four Glo establishments, however I only checked out two. The food they have on offer is wholesome and tasty. It is very fast service as all the food is prepared already. They usually have three options but I end up having two of the three every time I go in as I can’t help myself. You get the option of three salads with each main and there is a lot of selection. The only issue here is the price. I ate here on a daily basis whilst in Reykjavik. Also don’t miss out the raw deserts that they have. I opted for the raw snickers bar that you MUST try if you go here.
Gardurinn (Reykjavik) – On the same road as Glo so it would be rude not to eat here. The concept of this place is cool. A nice relaxed vibe. The man who served me was friendly and talkative. They only have two meal options a day. Of course I had both. Some people might not like that it only has two options as there isn’t much of a selection. I liked this a it forces you to pick one rather than procrastinating over what to have. They also have raw deserts on offer but I stayed away from these in there as my bank balance was running low when I ate here.
Joylato (Reykjavik) – If you haven’t worked it out from the shop name this is a ice cream shop and the best ice cream shop I have been too. There are numerous vegan flavours such as avocado and lime, lychee, mango, and salted caramel. All the ingredients that they use are organic and local. You can really taste that the ingredients they use are at a high standard. As all of Iceland is expensive this is no different, you can get one, two, or three scoops. Of course I had the three scoops. For one scoop it is 550 krona, for two it is 850 krona, and for three scoops it is 1050 krona. For me if you are going to do something naughty you may as well do it right. Always opt for the three scoops or you will regret it or end up going back for more, trust me!
The Soup Company (Vik) – This is a hidden gem in Vik called ‘The Soup Company’. They always have a vegan option with a vegan bread roll. Just make sure you ask for the vegan bread roll as they didn’t tell me the one day and I ended up having a break out of spots and a bad stomach. One of the afternoons they had avocado soup. I had never tried it before and was a little susceptible but it was really tasty.
The Settlement Centre (Borgarnes) – I was pleased to find this place as this is as far as I know the only restaurant in Borgarnes that serves vegan food. There was a little coffee shop that did a vegan soup but can’t remember the name of this coffee shop, so I apologise for not being more help here. The settlement centre has several vegan options. They have a home made soup with freshly made bread for a starter or you can have it as a main dish. The two mains that I tried was the chargrilled vegetable wrap or the bean and lentil burger. The desert is a raw cake with vegan ice cream, this i didn’t try as was full from the first two courses. The lay out in here shocked me as it has a formal sort of feeling so I panicked a little when I walked in hoping I would get served. I was pleased that they sat me the other side of the restaurant because as I visited here later in my trip and lets just say I was not smelling to fresh. I did only take three pairs of socks for three weeks so it says it all. Ending on a plus, the food here is delicious.
Bonus supermarket (All over) – These are all over Iceland and are your best bet if you want to save a little money on food. There are other supermarkets obviously, however if you are on a budget then opt for Bonus supermarkets. Don’t get me wrong they are not that much cheaper than other supermarkets but save money for the more glamorous things in Iceland.
Lemon (Reykjavik) – I don’t drink alcohol any more so I head to smoothie bars instead. Lemon has a relaxed atmosphere, there is music playing and people just hanging out. They use local ingredients when they can which is always good to hear. My two favourite smoothies were ‘Django’ and ‘Nice Guy’ and of course you always go large. If you go after 4pm to Lemon you get two for one on smoothies and sandwiches. The only option they have for vegans is ‘the spicy vegan’. It is a wholemeal panini with falafel, peppers, curry paste, and spicy pesto. A random mix of foods but tastes delightful and I recommend you try it if you go to lemon.
101 Hotel (Reykjavik) – I only ate here once with my sister. I had a avocado and portobello burger with sweet potato fries. I haven’t met a person yet who don’t like sweet potato fries (please comment if you don’t, these crazy people must be out there). The place was empty whilst we ate in there, it is a hotel as well and we ate in the middle of the day. I have no doubt that it would get busy as the food is tasty. This is where I was talking to the waiter about why there are so many vegan options that I mentioned earlier.
Kaffi Vinyl (Reykjavik) – This is a place that I wished I had gone to earlier. With it being only underneath where I stayed in a Air B n B I don’t know why I didn’t. It is probably the coolest place I have ever eaten in, it has vinyls everywhere in here. They have the music playing in the background and you can ask for anything you want and they put it on for you. The food options that they have here is different from other places that’s why I enjoyed it so much. I had a treble decker sandwich with crisps on the side. I also had a wine glass full of kombucha and a home made rice pudding. For me kombucha is not very tasty but is great for the gut so why not. If its good for you I will eat or drink it.
What Did I Do Whilst Travelling?
Whale watching – Whales are my favourite animal on this earth and it was one of the reasons that I wanted to go to Iceland. I find them really fascinating and love learning about them. When I watch documentaries about these animals I didn’t feel like these beautiful animal exist (I know this sounds stupid) or that I could only ever see them if I travelled the other side of the world. As soon as I knew that I could see them in Iceland that sealed the deal. My sister is a big whale lover as well. We booked the whale watching before we got to Reykjavik and probably best that you do that as well as you can save yourself a little bit of money. Also you know that it is booked and no need to worry. During the experience we got to see wild dolphins which was a added bonus and they were showing off in front of the boat. You can get to see various different whales on the tour, we only seen on species of whale which was the mink whale. It is utterly breathtaking when you see the sheer size of these animals. Its not to be missed on a trip to Iceland. Be sure to check out the museum of whales as well, here you get to see life sized models of a lot of whales. It is crazy when you actually see how big these animals are.
Hiking – This is one of the main attractions to Iceland so if you are not a fan of walking/hiking then probably best to avoid here or stay in Reykjavik. Most places In Iceland in my opinion are best when you are walking, you can really take in the natural beauty. If ever in Skogar be sure to walk alongside the river as it is just waterfall after waterfall. Nature is badass. There are some great walks in Vik as well that are not that challenging.
Waterfalls – There are amazing waterfalls all over iceland to be honest. However, some of the more extraordinary ones such as Skogafoss and Gullfoss are not to be missed. Some of the natural wonders of Iceland are brilliant as they don’t cost a thing. I sometimes would just sit next to the waterfall reading a book for a few hours and it sounded really peaceful even though there is water crashing to floor. When you are looking at the waterfalls the people surrounding it are all mesmerised just like I was.
The Golden Circle – This is a tour that I paid for. You can visit these places on your own but you would need a car for that. If you haven’t got a car sorted whilst in Iceland then purchase The golden Circle tour from your campsite or local booking office. They are all over the place in Reykjavik. It cost me around £70 and was money well spent. You get to visit three top Iceland wonders which are Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall, and Pingvellir National Park. All three are completely different to one another but all beautiful in there own rights. A must see.
Secret Lagoon – Talk about saving the best for last. I know I have repeated the word amazing over and over again in this blog but It is the only word I can think of to explain Iceland. Obviously everyone will have there favorites when travelling to a different country. For me you have to visit the Secret Lagoon. It is a naturally heated pool, its gets to about 30-40 degrees and is surrounded by mountains. It is really surreal whilst you are in the pool. I have never been so relaxed than I did when I was here. I think you can stay in there as long as you want. However, because mine was a paid tour you get bout ninety minutes in there which is more than enough as the heat of the pool really makes you sweat. You skin feels amazing (there is that word again) after being In here. There are a lot of not to be missed places in Iceland but this is my number one.