Our last two days in Iceland were kind of a whirlwind. Let's get to it!
Before we went to bed the night before, we received an email saying that our Golden Circle tour for the next day was cancelled. So we slept in a little bit on day 2, knowing we had the day free to roam around Reykjavik. We also started reaching out to our Airbnb host and were waiting to hear back so we knew what our check-in time would be for the next day (foreshadowing.)
We ate breakfast at the hotel buffet, which we touched on more in last week's post. It was seriously delicious and a great way to say goodbye to our lovely hotel. We got dressed and decided we would walk into town to visit Hallgrimskirkja, which is the huge church in Reykjavik that you've probably seen many photos of. The weather was... not great. We were totally prepared for the cold but we were NOT prepared for wet. The walk into town was actual torture. I was almost blown over several times by 30 mph winds, and with rain and sleet hitting me in the face every step of the way, I was tempted to just give up.
But finally, we made it to the church. It was packed, as pretty much every tourist in town was there to find solace from the crazy weather. We sat for awhile to get our bearings (and reach out to our Airbnb host) but then took the elevator up the 8 flights to see the amazing views of Reykjavik from the top. The viewing floor is open-air, insanely cold and windy, so we only lasted enough time to get our photos and leave. Regardless, it was a really cool experience and I'm glad we got the epic photo of Reykjavik that everyone gets, ha.
I still have no idea if this was a scam or if the person just decided last minute that they couldn't host us, but we went into emergency mode. We had to find a place to stay and find it fast. We checked every hotel and hostel and no one had a room/bed. I started reaching out to Airbnbs and several declined on account of it being last minute (...what, two hours isn't enough notice? Just kidding.) Finally, I reached out to a host that advertised his space as room for 1 guest, but it had a double bed. Luckily he and his girlfriend were gracious enough to accept us for the weekend. Seriously, such a relief. We thought we'd be sleeping in the bus station, for real.
With a little more pep in our step now and the weather finally improving, we headed to Lebowski Bar (yes, a Big Lebowski-themed bar!) for veggie burgers and fries. Super delicious - I wish we had gotten to explore this bar more. In full disclosure, we've never seen The Big Lebowski so we probably didn't pick up on all the little nods to the movie. The bathrooms were cool though! Afterwards we headed to our new Airbnb which happened to conveniently be right next to Reykjavik Roasters (yes, the same place we spent two hours trying to find a new place to stay!) Later that night we walked around town a little bit and grabbed beers at The Laundromat Cafe. It's a super colorful spot, full of rainbow bookshelves (reminds me of home!) Afterwards we went to Microbar and got a flight of local beers. Then it was back to the Airbnb to sleep off the craziness of the day.
We woke up early on our last full day in Iceland and went back to The Laundromat Cafe for breakfast. After peeking their menu the night before, we couldn't get their breakfast options out of our head. The rest of the day was spent on the Golden Circle tour that was cancelled the day prior. The weather was still rough, but we were happy that the tour was still on. The Golden Circle is primarily three stops: the geothermal hot springs in Haukadalur (including Geysir), the Gullfoss waterfall, and Þingvellir National Park. The stops are actually not too far away from Reykjavik, but the tour bus drives out of the way so you can see Iceland's beautiful landscape and even Icelandic horses!
Fun fact (per our tour guide): Did you know there are naturally NO trees in Iceland? Every tree (about 4 million of them) was planted by a person.
After about an hour, we arrived at Geysir. It was pretty snowy and the ground was really icy in places, but we walked around the geothermal park to see all of the hot springs and geysers. It's a really beautiful area.
Next we went to Gullfoss, where we had the option to go to the overlook area or to the bottom of the waterfall. We just went to the overlook, but unfortunately couldn't even see because it was snowing so hard. Definitely a bummer because photos of it are really gorgeous. The photo above is our only photo of Gullfoss. Yes, that's a waterfall in there.
Once we arrived back in Reykjavik we went to Pizza With No Name for dinner and it was soooo good. My favorite meal of the trip, hands down, and a great way to end our Icelandic adventures. It's a little hard to find since it literally has no name and no sign outside the restaurant. If you go to Reykjavik though, FIND IT. The following morning we woke up to 18 inches of snow, but packed our bags, trekked to Reykjavik Roasters again for coffee and breakfast, and then to the bus station. After a delayed flight, we were finally on our way back to PGH.
This was truly the trip of a lifetime. To be honest, we booked it on a whim after I was getting jealous of so many people I know traveling to Europe. I never would have thought we'd end up coming home engaged and ready to plan a wedding. We hope you enjoyed traveling along with us through these posts. One last recap from Nick below...
Ok, Nick here. Before I recap, I just have to say that we saw Greenland from the plane. I mean, Iceland is super cool, but it's a place that I honestly DID think I'd one day get to see, one way or another. But Greenland? There's something about the fact that I got to see Greenland with my own eyes that seriously excites me. I don't personally know too many other people that could say they did too. It was a pretty cool experience.
Travel & Transportation
- WOW Airlines: See last post for details, but we will definitely fly WOW again.
- Reykjavik Excursions: We booked our Golden Circle tour through RE. Similar to the Northern Lights tour, they picked us up in a van and transported us to the bus station where we boarded a tour bus. As mentioned above, our tour was cancelled, but they allowed us to go on the next day's tour. Only good experiences with them!
- Walking: Iceland truly is not that cold. Pittsburgh is typically colder in the winter months. We went to Iceland with the temperature in mind, but not the wind and complete irregularity of precipitation. Forecasting means nothing there, so have waterproof gear if you plan to go anywhere on foot.
- Reykjavik Roasters: One of my favorite places on the entire trip. Easily the most delicious coffee we had the whole time, and all-in-all a truly cozy, comfortable place. Spinning vinyl, world-class coffee, local food, comfy chairs, 'nuff said.
- Lebowski Bar: Very cool place with a super fun atmosphere. You can spin a wheel at the bar to win White Russians for yourself, you and a friend, you and four friends, you and TEN friends, and more. The food was hearty and delicious, but it was expensive (but quite frankly, that's just how EVERYTHING is in Iceland, so get over it.)
- The Laundromat Cafe: Super cute place with color-coded book shelves. Basically home away from home, so yeah, we liked it there.
- Microbar: A basement bar with a TON of local beers on tap. Nothing fancy or extra, just a room with tables, music, and beer. This was a super cool place.
- Pizza With No Name: Like Sarah said earlier, this was our best meal in Iceland. Pricey, gourmet pizza that does not disappoint. It shows up on google maps, but not in real life. Just go into the building that you think it could be in, and it is. (It is, just go in.)
- Hallgrimskirkja: Despite literally checking my face for BLOOD when we walked in because I thought the wind and snow had cut my face open, this place was pretty cool. The sanctuary truly wasn't anything that spectacular, though the organ was incredible. The real draw to this place is the view from the top. Iceland as far as the eye can see! Keep in mind, though, if it's 30 mph winds on the ground, then 8 floors up you'll find ladders falling from the ceiling rafters, just missing tourist's heads by inches while trying to capture a photo out of the window (just think about that for a second.)
- Geysir: I really loved this stop on the Golden Circle tour. The entire geothermal area was so beautiful, and there was tons to explore. Only drawback is that it smells like rotten eggs everywhere... but hey, what can you do?
- Gullfoss: I was really looking forward to this. It's truly a shame we couldn't even see it.
- Þingvellir National Park: This enormity of this view is impossible to capture in a photo, but being there was spectacular. It was the perfect last stop to a long day.
- Airbnb: We had quite the debacle with Airbnb this trip, but I also learned some valuable lessons. ALWAYS connect with your host right after they approve your booking and again a few days before checking in. Truth be told, our host approved our booking but we never messaged. Mistake. So, I still have no idea if it was a real person on the other end or if it was a scam. Airbnb reimbursed us our full amount + 10% that we used towards our replacement Airbnb. Very thankful to have found that last-minute home away from home! If you're interested in trying Airbnb, you can get a credit for your first trip through our referral link!
Thanks for reading!
Sarah & Nick