Editor’s Pick: Destination Iceland

In Destinations, Editor Picks by LA Travel Magazine

As the wheels of our plane touched down on Icelandic soil the anticipation sets in and a feeling of excitement quickly makes its way to the forefront. Luckily enough there are no custom procedures to go through it is easy and seamless to grab a rental car, especially having already pre-booked through AutoEurope.com. We were that much closer to the start of exploration through one of the most mystical places on the planet. Originally Iceland was not in our plan but thanks to WOW Airlines and their new direct flights from LAX paired alongside their WOW Stopover platform it was a no brainer.

When you have limited time like us and are using Iceland as a stopover to Europe you will ask yourself “Do I have enough time here”? “Is four days enough to see everything”? You will soon figure out the answer to this question and that is an emphatic NO! Having done our research on the top things to see and do in this wild untamed country we soon realize we may not be able to fit it all in, although we will certainly try!

After a beautiful scenic drive from the airport showcasing the countryside just like a painting and in full exploration mode just taking it all in you will notice that this is one of the most amazing geographic wonders of the world. Picture the green rolling hills of Ireland, add bubbling hot spring water around every turn with steam rising from the ground, horizons dotted with volcanic peaks and endless gushing waterfalls as far as the eyes can see. If you love the great outdoors like us and are in search of pure topographic beauty you have come to the right place!

The Golden Circle
A 5am start was the only way to ensure we could fit everything in. Camera batteries charged, drone and all accessories packed and ready. Our Golden Circle adventure which is arguably Iceland’s number one attraction for tourists all over the world begins. The Golden Circle is comprised of a scenic route from Reykjavik into the southern uplands of Iceland and back, literally forming a drivable circle. It is the perfect way to start the trip; the drive takes you on the ideal tour of the countryside dotted with thousands of sheep and horses, rolling hills of sheer beauty and untamed volcanic activity setting up breathtaking photo opportunities along the way. There are three primary spots as a “must” visit; the magnificent Gullfoss Waterfall, the giant Geysir which erupts every 10 to 15 minutes (and which all other geysers in the world are named after) and Þingvellir, the site of the world’s first parliament. If you have time a visit to Laugarvatn Fontana should be added to this list as well. A place along the way to relax and experience authentic Icelandic nature while soaking in the warm geothermal pools and enjoying natural steam rooms. The baths vary in depth, size and temperature and the steam rooms that have been built over natural hot springs that have been used in this purpose since 1929. Fontana is located by a beautiful lake Laugarvatn and you can enjoy the spectacular views from the sauna or the pools. We suggest a polar bear plunge into the lake. It will certainly revitalize you and may be a bit of shock but you will be glad you did in the end. fontana.is

On the end of our Golden Circle adventure we added a stop at Fakasel which was a beautiful way to connect with the locals and learn about the infamous Icelandic horse.

LATM Tip: As you can probably already tell you will need a rental car to truly experience all Iceland has to offer. We looked into numerous tours and decided to book an SUV via AutoEurope.com to ensure we could allocate as much or as little time needed for each stop. While weather conditions can vary, overall it is pretty easy to drive throughout the countryside. Auto Europe offers numerous travel tips and resources, helpful travel guides, road trip itineraries and more to help you plan your trip so utilize their services and make your vacation planning a little easier!

Fakasel (Icelandic Horse Park)
Roughly 45 minutes outside of Reykjavik is must visit for a dose of true Icelandic culture, history and lively entertainment all rolled into one. At Fakasel travelers have a chance to witness the triumphant story of the pure bred Icelandic Horse and the role that it has played in the history of the country since the time of the Vikings. A thrilling showcase of beauty, poise, agility, power and finesse evolves right before your eyes as a team of riders and horses show off their bonded relationships that have been tried and true for hundreds of years. The show consists of a combination of thrilling horse riding variations holding foreground to one of the largest multimedia screens in the world displaying fascinating imagery of history and folklore from ancient times which sets the stage as there story unfolds. After the show the riders and horses come out to greet the crowd allowing you to connect with the animals on a personal level and of course answer any questions you may have about these majestic beings. What would a trip to Iceland be without a glimpse of the Northern lights? If you don’t happen to be there at the right time of year which usually begins mid to late September, Fakasel has you covered! Their multimedia screen (roughly 200 sq meters) displays a show called “I am Aurora” which is a magnificent journey describing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) through a detailed story and mind boggling imagery. Become fully educated about the how, when and where of the Northern Lights but beware, after the show you may just find yourself driving the countryside in the middle of the night searching for a glimpse of one of the mystical wonders our solar system has to offer! icelandichorsepark.com

Reykjavik Food Walking Tour
If you’re a true foodie (and really who of us isn’t?) then the Reykjavik Walking food Tour is a must during your visit to Iceland. Meet with your guide early in the day, receive your briefing on all of the dining establishments you will be visiting for the day and get ready for the perfect blend of the Reykjavik’s history, culture and of course a tour of the top places to find the best Icelandic food! There truly is no better way to see the city; if you were to do a tour by yourself you wouldn’t come close to finding all the nooks and crannies that make this city as special as it is! The food walking tour is made up of a small group of proud local food lovers that are extremely passionate about showing off their magnificent city to tourists from all over the world. You will be guided throughout downtown Reykjavik to learn about the cities beginnings, the Icelandic culture and the most important part, the food! The tour takes you to 6 different restaurants where you will experience a total of 13 different local Icelandic dishes that give the perfect depiction of the local culinary scene. From the old to the new, you will try Iceland’s best ice cream, the infamous Icelandic hot dog, savory lamb soup and a few more decadent local treats including the “best lobster soup in the world”! We will stop there as we wouldn’t want to tell you everything about the tour; just go check it out for yourself. If you don’t believe us check out thereykjavikfoodwalk.com for a mouth watering glimpse into what this tour is all about!

Blue Lagoon
One of the main attractions we were really looking forward to immersing ourselves in was the ever famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa! The iconic hotspot is located in a lava field in Grindavik which is situated conveniently in southwestern Iceland not to far from the airport. Tourists come from all over the world just for a chance to pamper themselves in the rich and warm mineral infused water. The lagoon’s temperature is roughly 100 degrees Fahrenheit and has been known to provide many healing qualities for the body from the algae, minerals and silica. The ideal place to relax with friends or family, the Blue Lagoon offers more than meets the eye. Opt for an algae and or mud masks while you soak, book an in-water floating massage to take your relaxation to the next level, or enjoy a cocktail at the swim up bar! The Blue Lagoon has many amenities to ensure you have the perfect spa experience including sauna and steam rooms, a man made waterfall, luxury suites, relaxation rooms and first class dining at Lava the on-site restaurant. One thing to note is when you are planning your trip to Iceland make sure you book a reservation in advance as space is limited! bluelagoon.com

Stay
While in Iceland like most other countries in the world you typically always have an option when it comes to lodging; do you prefer a hotel or a private vacation rental? Are you looking for luxury or the opportunity to become one with the locals? On this trip we decided to try two different accommodation styles. On the beginning of our trip we opted to live like a local in a cozy rental we found on Homeaway.com. Having our own apartment right in the heart of Reykjavik made it an easy transition as we had everything we could need from a washer and dryer to a full kitchen. We shopped locally and cooked breakfast together making this trip certainly feel different. We waived to the neighbors as we passed by and watched their children laughing and playing hide and seek at the local playground. We may not have been locals but we certainly didn’t feel like tourists. The experience took us deeper into Icelandic culture as we witnessed how the locals live firsthand.

At the end of our trip we wanted to experience the best of the best in luxury accommodations. After reading all of the reviews and now having been personally there really is only one place you can count on and that is Tower Suites. For the highest level of luxury lodging in Reykjavik, Tower Suites is the place to be. This brand new getaway is set upon the 20th floor on one of the highest buildings in the city which makes for an outstanding viewpoint no matter which of the eight suites you occupy. Full panoramic views of Reykjavik’s harbor, cityscape and neighboring mountain range make for awe inspiring photos and Instagram posts. A VIP private elevator is available for those who would like to be taken right to the penthouse without being seen at all. Upon arrival the properties gracious staff of hosts are there to take care of your every need. All of the suites are meticulously designed with stylish furnishings and the extreme comfort and service of a 5 star hotel. In the morning meet in the club lounge for a healthy breakfast, later in the day sip on one of the many imported whiskeys or wines from all over the world. No matter what the reason for staying at the Tower Suites, you will leave knowing feeling like royalty. towersuites.is

Chasing Waterfalls
Upon our last official day in Iceland we realize that we just have to come back to visit this beautiful country. With hours left before our departure flight we had one more adventure that needed to be conquered. The south coast of Iceland is home to an incredible waterfall named Seljalandsfoss that we had seen endless photos of. We simply had to see her before our untimely departure, there was no debate. Having paid witness to many beautiful waterfalls in our short time here, this one was different. The photos we saw of people walking behind the falls enticed us to include this to our must see list.

We drove the countryside for almost 2 hours awaiting our arrival of the magical waterfall and yet time flew by so fast as there was so much beauty to take in it never once felt like a chore to get to our destination. Upon arrival at Seljalandsfoss the beauty and size become apparent even from miles away as you lay eyes on her for the very first time. Getting out of the car running to the falls we felt like kids again, joining in with many others who were also in awe struck. We took our time basking in the natural beauty. When it was time to leave no words were said, just giant smiles on our faces; we had completed our mission and it was time to depart, on to the next journey that this amazing life has to offer!

Take a glacier break, geyser break, volcano break or even just a coffee break in one of Reykjavik‘s many cafés and say HÆ to the locals. With the WOW Stopover, Iceland is more accessible than ever when traveling to Europe! To book your next Euro/Icelandic getaway visit wowair.us.

Get a glimpse behind the scenes of our visit to Iceland here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XSYG4Xq50k