South Coast Drive

I hardly need my 8am alarm to wake me up, because buddy across from me has been snoring louder than I ever thought humanly possible. All night. I had fallen asleep before Sev got in, but when I went to bed there was definitely a blanket there for him. When I wake up I see snores McGee is wearing a blanket and Sev is not. Thief!!! These blankets are 1100ISK ($11), you think this shit is a game, bro? I don’t do anything about it because he’s sleeping and I’m not a savage, but I’m not stoked. I’m trying to give Sev a good first hostel experience and this guy isn’t helping. 
Ma and Pa come to pick us up at our hostel for 9am for our South coast adventure!! I don’t usually do much research before a trip, but considering our limited time in Iceland I sought some advice from the Internet. I find a great blog with a super informative map for us to follow along the coast as a self-drive trip as opposed to booking a tour. We’re not really tour people, though I know they have their place in some cases. We decide to drive it ourselves because we already have the car, and this way we can stay as long as we like at each point of interest; the flexibility is nice. 

Our rental comes with a wifi router so it’s easy for us to access to the map as we go without having to plan too much in advance.

Our first stop is to a set of waterfalls about an hour into our drive. Only two are officially named and listed on the map (Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi) but there are some smaller falls between the two giants as well. Seljalandsfoss is visible from the road, where we can also see a lot of parked tour busses, so we drive a little further down to Gljúfrabúi and start from there; this one is somewhat hidden. If it weren’t for the map and/or other people walking around in this area I might not have ever known it existed. Almost like a cave, it’s accessible through a large crack in the rock wall where we step carefully through the shallow stream, doing our best to keep our feet dry. The amount of water tumbling down over the cliff above us is incredible, and once inside it’s impossible to avoid getting absolutely drenched by proximity. I wasted my time when I straightened my hair this morning. I’m really not sure what I was thinking. 

After this we dry off a little on our way over to Seljalandsfoss, an even bigger waterfall that you can walk behind. So much for drying off. They’re both super epic, and while there are a ton of tourists here it’s not overly invasive as it would be basically anywhere else in the world. There’s also minimal signage, rope ways, etc., which I’m always a fan of. 

Next stop: hot spring! This should be pretty cool. Iceland is known for its geothermal swimming pools, most notably the Blue Lagoon. People come from all over the world to experience it’s spa-like health affects, and it’s now become very commercial. This spring however is much harder to get to and as a result, is much more low key. After a 10 minute drive inland, away from the main road, we walk 15 minutes into the valley before reaching the springs. There are only a handful of other people, some of whom are leaving. By the time I’m in my bathing suit and ready to get in the water, we are the only people around. I can’t imagine the last time anyone has been able to say that at the blue lagoon. This pool doesn’t have all of the same minerals that cause the lagoon to have its opaque blue water, but it’s a natural hot spring all the same. It definitely contains sulphur, which I’m not sure has any health benefits; all I know is that it’s smelly. 

We don’t stay here too long because we’ve got a whole road of other things to see ahead of us! Our next stop is to skogafoss waterfall (this is redundant because foss means waterfall in Icelandic. Like saying Koh Tao island, when Koh means island). This is the biggest waterfall yet, holy moly. A staircase has been built up the side of the falls, so we make the trek to the top for a different view. If I’d have just run the 10k yesterday I wouldn’t have been able to do this, it’s a deceivingly long walk up. 
We also stop for some fish n chips from a solo food truck parked nearby. We meet a Canadian guy from Quebec who is biking around the whole island. I’ve noticed hitch hiking and bicycling are extremely popular here. 

After Skogafoss we move on to a black sand beach. I’ve never been to one before! Obviously this is not the kind of beach where we can set up an umbrella and catch a tan, but it’s beautiful all the same. Maybe even more so. The weather has been extremely kind to us all day, but now some clouds have started to cover the sky and the beach itself looks a little foggy. Not so foggy that we can’t see the dramatic rock formations standing just 50 meters out from the shore. I don’t know where one can sign up to do this, but a man is paragliding above the beach among all the birds at the top of the peak above us. This is one of those places where photos can never do it justice. 

Our last stop is to the town of Vik. I’m not really sure what there is here but after driving around a little bit we decide to head back to Reykjavik for dinner. We do make a quick stop at an IceWear Store where I finally find a hand knit Icelandic sweater. Obviously the sweaters are everywhere but most are machine made and I wanted a slightly unique one. I am now content. 

We drive back to the city which is just bursting with celebration after Iceland has won a Euro Cup game. We have dinner near my parents hotel then Sev and I head downtown for a couple beers. We visit the Lebowski Bar which is packed full of drunk humans having a good time, but it is late, I am tired, and I am very sober. We walk home in daylight even though it’s 1am. I don’t think I could ever get used to this. 

I just want to give a mad shoutout to my girl IHeartReykjavik for an epic South Coast blog post. My day wouldn’t have been half as awesome without your guidance. 

Back to Reykjavik 

Our airport hotel has a shit breakfast. From 4:30-6:30 they do “cold” breakfast, and then the “hot” breakfast follows. We need to leave by 6am, so we are only going to make it for the cold food. It’s just bread, meat, and cheese. And they’re out of cheese. Wouldn’t kill them to turn on a toaster. They don’t have cream for coffee. Fruit/yogurt apparently doesn’t count as cold food. We’re not super stoked, but what can you do? 

Dad tries to arrange a taxi to the airport with the front desk, but while the concierge is calling, he decides to open his Uber app. Surprise! Norway has Uber! 

I’m a huge Uber fan, especially with all the bullshit that goes on with the taxis in Toronto. Please refer to this video of a cabbie jumping on a moving Uber. 

The driver rolls up in the same car Dad drives at home, is friendly, and takes us quickly to the airport. 

not used to riding shotgun

It only costs 90NOK ($14). This is huge news. It just occurred to me that I haven’t been listing costs much on this trip, but I can tell you Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world, and our taxi the night before cost almost 4x this amount. Seriously. That’s in a metered cab, just to an airport hotel.

Conclusion: Uber is life. 

Download the app and use the code naomil153 so we both get a free ride! It’ll change your life. 

Fast forward: we arrive in Reykjavik. We find a cute spot for lunch down by the harbour called the coo coo’s nest. It’s a simple little (very little) café with good sandwiches and a nice atmosphere. 

Sev and I are going off on our own to stay in a hostel for our last couple days here. Sev has never been to one before, and they’re always a good time so I figured it would be a fun way to stay in Iceland. We did just sleep on bunk beds last night after all. Why not share a room with 8 other people too? The hostel is super cool; it’s set up in an old cookie factory right on the coast in Reykjavik. It’s huge and industrial. Hipsters everywhere. 
We settle in and have a pint at the hostel bar where we meet some Americans who are here on a semester abroad. Later, Sev and I head downtown where we find a bar that we visited back in 2012 when we visited Iceland for the first time. Sev was 16 at the time and was somehow served a beer, so we still have a picture on Facebook of him with his “first” drink. We do our best to take an identical photo for comparison’s sake. 


We meet up with Ma and Pa again for a nice dinner at Apotek where I have some perfectly cooked octopus and a salmon dish that uses tea-infused barbecue sauce. Super fabulous. 

Back at our hostel, the bar is packed and everyone is jamming out to some live music. I knew we picked a good spot. Our American friends are down the street at another bar and are going on a full on night out, but I’m old now and feeling really tired. We’re getting up at 8am to drive the south coast of Iceland, so instead of sleeping in the car all day I decide to call it a night and go to bed early. Sev is much younger and cooler than I, so he goes out. I will live vicariously through his stories tomorrow. 

Borgarnes and Blue Lagoon

It’s 4am and my body is like, nah man. No more sleep. I made the mistake of taking an accidental nap on the plane while watching The Revenant yesterday, which I didn’t get to finish, for the record. Everyone else is still sound asleep but I can’t do it. I take a shower to kill some time and start googling things to do when you only have 24 hours in Iceland. We have a reservation at the Blue Lagoon which is now required.If you haven’t heard of it, the Blue Lagoon is like a geothermal spa with a ton of healthy minerals and natural heat. The water is bright blue and an absolute delight to swim in. 

Four years ago when we visited we walked in no reso no problem, but now, as I assume Iceland’s dedicated marketing campaign to increase tourism is seeing some success, reservations are a requirement. We find that the earliest we can book ourselves in is 7pm, which is actually really convenient as our flight to Oslo leaves at 1am tonight/tomorrow morning…you know what I mean. So the plan is to get a bit of lagoon relaxation in andhead straight to the airport. 
Everyone finally decides to join me in becoming conscious, and we eat breakfast downstairs which is set up buffet style. This little bed and breakfast is so cute!! The only downside is it’s random placement. Awkwardly situated between the airport and Reykjavik, we have no other option but to get around by cab. Instead of relying on those all day we decide to go back to the airport and rent our own car. 

While Dad is busy setting that up, I use the airport wifi to find a route for a little day trip we can do to keep busy until our reservation at the Blue Lagoon tonight. I figure anywhere we go we’ll find beautiful scenery so I don’t feel like we can go too wrong. It’s Iceland. I find a helpful blog that suggests many quick and easy drives outside the city, and ultimately we decide a visit to Borgarnes will be best for today. If we make it in enough time, one of Iceland’s many beautiful waterfalls, Hraunfossar, is just another 45 minutes away from the town, so I’m really hoping we can hit that too. 

 We drive into Reykjavik to have some lunch before heading out on the road and sit down at a cute bistro on the main strip of Laugavegar. Severin (my baby brother, for those of you who don’t know me) orders a Minke Whale dish, while I have a casual and apparently traditional lamb soup. It’s good, but nothing epic. Lamb. Potatoes. Carrots. Soup. The whale was definitely a better call, but Sev’s a gem and let’s me try some.

After grabbing a quick coffee to go, we set out towards Borgarnes. As expected, the scenery is beautiful as we drive along the coast, between the mountains and the sea. Some landscapes are barren and rocky, and others are covered with grass and patches of beautiful purple lupins. The locals hate these flowers because they’re invasive and grow like weeds all over the place, but I don’t see anything wrong with purple weeds. Let’s make this a thing back home! I’ll bring some. Smuggle some weed into the country. Sorry, weeds*. 

There’s a tunnel along the road that takes us deep under ground. Dad estimates that it’s about 7km long, descending for 3.5 and ascending for 3.5. I’ve never driven through a tunnel so deep but I’m sure it has to do with some kind of shipping channel or waterway. 

We stop at a couple nice lookout points, but when we make it to Borgarnes we realize we don’t really have enough time to drive out to the waterfall and be back in time for the Blue Lagoon. I’m a little disappointed by this…but you can’t see it all in a day. The drive in itself has been cool, so it’s still a successful day trip.We settle for a quick tea at a café instead of turning around right away. 

This little town of 1800 people is small and sleepy, but boasts beautiful views of the ocean and mountains out in the distance. Almost all of the peaks here are flat topped, which Mama is particularly curious about so as soon as we get wifi we Google it. Fun fact: Iceland doesn’t actually have any “mountains”, just valleys. My mistake. Their landscape has been eroded and carved away by glaciers, which give the impression of mountains to the untrained eye. Who knew!? 
A couple hours later we’ve arrived at the Blue Lagoon, feeling super happy to have booked a reservation. There are big tour busses full of people all parked at the entrance, and a bit of a line at reception. Usually I find those busses so annoying, but I’ve been thinking, and I feel like there are two ways to take advantage of the free stopover with Iceland Air. 

1. Stay for the full 5-7 days you’re allowed and try to see as much as you can.  

2. Arrange for an 8-12 hour stopover and take a tour bus to and from the Blue Lagoon. Ive never done this, but it seems so easy and convenient. I’m not a fan of tours, but the lagoon is always an incredible experience, and super close to Keflavik Intl. so in this case I’d argue that it’s totally worth it. 

We indulge in silica and algae mud masks, sparkling wine at the swim up bar, and then enjoy a nice dinner at the new Lava Restaurant. When we visited 4 years ago there was nothing but a little café that offers pre packaged sandwiches, yogurt, salads etc., which still exists by the way. 

By 10pm we’re on the road to the airport for our 1am flight to Oslo. We won’t be staying in Norway’s capital city, just passing through with a connection to Tromsø a few hours after we land. By this point I’m sleepy, but a 2.5 hour flight shouldn’t be so bad. At least I’ll get to finish the Revenant. 

Noon to Midnight

I wake up early enough to shower, finish packing, and head to the airport where I’ll meet the rest of my fam jam. We’re headed to Iceland today! We’ve called it Iceland round 2, as we went a few years ago. Almost 4 years ago to be more specific. I’m about to sound old, but my oh my how the time flies. Really, the purpose of this trip is to hit Norway for the Midnight Sun Marathon, but I’ll explain more on that later. 

I arrive at noon for our 2pm flight. Pearson Intl. is trying to get fancy and test out some new form of security, but it’s a mess. Apparently it’s supposed to make things more efficient but I can assure you that it doesn’t. The theory of the system itself probably makes sense, but they’ve forgotten to take the stupidity of the average human into account. Everyone is confused, weird and slow. It’s hectic. We make it though with time to spare but it’s a frustrating process. 

Flights themselves are never much to write home about (or blog about), and neither is this one. There’s a family behind us who keeps like, punching and kicking my seat for unknown reasons. I want to stab them, but I don’t. Classic flight problem. I do manage to get a pretty cool photo of Greenland from the air. I know plane photos are annoying and usually pretty devoid of anything but some clouds and maybe a plane wing, but bear with me. This one is pretty legit. 

Look at all the cool snowy mountains! Glacial water! A hint of a rainbow in the top right corner!

After a mere 5 hours of enduring the seat punching, and watching in flight movies, we have arrived. The time is 11:15pm and the sun has not yet set. It’s almost summer solstice, and because of where Iceland is located there are a few days a year that it remains in total sunlight for 24 hours, and of course, total darkness for a few days in the winter as well. We take a taxi to a cute little bed and breakfast nearby the airport and arrive by midnight. Sun still shining. No one is tired and there’s nothing to do around us (we’re literally in a starkly located little subdivision somewhere between the airport and Reykjavik) so we sit quietly in our room and try to entertain ourselves. I’m too stoked on the promise of adventure to sleep. So here I am… writing about it to pass the time.