Spirited Wanderer: Iceland / by Jessica Ballerstein

To be completely forward, Iceland is hands down my favorite travel destination so far. I have visited a handful of cities, towns, and countries. Nothing has been compared to how I feel about Iceland. As I'm writing this I feel sadness and joy simultaneously. Sadness that I'm not there and joy cause I was able to collect many memories. I have traveled to Iceland on two different occasions and it still doesn't cease to amaze me. By the end of this blog hopefully, you'll sorta understand why. 

 

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ICELAND

 

The first time I traveled to Iceland was back in 2015 with my roommate at the time. We both had a strong desire to visit Iceland. We both loved nature and hiking. If we were to take a trip anywhere Iceland seems to be the place to go. If you google Iceland right now the images alone are major incentives to visit the country. The second time I went was the following year with my boyfriend Jake. For both trips, I booked tickets for late August, 3 months before our flight. The first time I went the ticket cost about $350 round trip with WOW airline. The second time it was about $500. Ridiculous. Still pretty reasonable though considering the distance.

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 As for accommodation for the first Iceland trip, due to the fact that we were poor adventures, we decided to camp in our cars for the road trip. The second trip I was still poor but Jake and I decided to camp with tents instead for the first couple of days. We used Airbnb the remaining days.  Each trip we rented a car for the 5-day excursions for about $250.  On average I put aside $500 in spending money, assuming we would spend $100 a day on food and activities. We did some research and we found out food was a bit pricey in Iceland, so we both decided we would stock up on tons of snacks. Also deciding we would just spend money on breakfast and dinner. 

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Our journey began from the airport in Keflavik. We followed a sample itinerary from Hostel.is that guided us on where the attractions were. The first place we drove to was the Golden Circle. There we got to explore the Þingvellir National Park, the Geysirs, and the majestic Gullfoss, also known as the Golden Waterfall. The Golden waterfall is still the biggest waterfall I've seen in my whole entire 26 years of living. After the golden circle, our next stop was towards my happy place. 

Skogafoss.

Now before I talk about Skogafoss, the drive to the location was simply breathtaking. Like I said I was still blown away by the scenery even on my second trip there. There were things I forgot was there or things I simply missed. Before going to Skogafoss there is a stop at another waterfall called Seljalandsfoss. Whats cool about that one is that you can walk behind it. I never walked behind a waterfall before so that in itself was a cool experience. 

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The first time I saw Skogafoss my mouth remained open most of the time. I kid you not. Up until that point, I have never experienced such an awe-inspiring moment. I still get chills when I think of Skogafoss. Although the Golden Waterfall was the biggest waterfall I've ever seen, Skogafoss is hands down the most magnificent. What's cool about Skogafoss is that you can climb up these stairs that will take you to the top. After getting to the top you can keep exploring allowing you to see other waterfalls. The first time my roommate and I camped in front of the waterfall. Even till this day, I daydream of when I woke up to the sound of the waterfall. When I looked at it that morning a rainbow was appearing. The second time I visited Skogafoss upon arrival we were greeted by a rainbow right across the waterfall. I can go on and on about Skogafoss but it's something one must experience to understand. 

Eyjafjallajökull.

The first time I went we were able to explore for a couple hours but had to rush back. I really didn't get to check out the island as much as I would have liked. The second trip Jake and I were able to get a room last minute. For two nights there we paid about $100. We had the chance to tour pretty much the whole island by foot. We saw many puffins, chatted with the locals, and ate volcano bread! We had pretty much the best soup I had in a while. As in my mom couldn't make a soup like that, it was that good. Most of all we were able to hike up a volcano! Truthfully, I was PETRIFIED! I was even mad at Jake for convincing me to do it in the first place! But man o man when I finally got to the top it was worth the risk of falling to my death. NOTHING beats being on top of an active volcano! We were literally in the clouds when we got up there. Again, another moment where Iceland has blown me away. 

After the island, we drove to other attractions like the black sand beach in Vik, a town further south. After Vik, we started making our way east towards Reykjavik During our drive, we stopped by small towns like Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri. It was still a panoramic drive towards the Blue Lagoon with mountains like I've never seen before. There was a glacier during our drive so of course, we took the opportunity to check it out. When do you ever get the chance to see a glacier? 

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Blue Lagoon.

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I look forward to the blue lagoon every time. Who doesn't want to have Geothermal Spa experience in Iceland? It's pretty expensive but then again it's a hot spot. I would be surprised if it wasn't. For both occasion's I went around 6/7ish. The reason is so we can enjoy the sunset while in the blue lagoon. The lagoon is always the perfect temperature, its the perfect way to relax after driving around for a couple days. Once I got in the lagoon it was hard to convince myself to leave considering the chilly weather. During the day we had temperatures ranging from high-50s to high-40s. At night was when it became really chilly, temperatures would drop to low 40s and high-mid 30's. Thankfully both occasions I packed a lot of hoodies and warm socks, so I wasn't really bothered. 

Reykjavik.

After hours of relaxing, we made our way to the city of Reykjavik. The first time I went it was brief cause we had to rush back to make our flight. The second time around Jake and I stayed two nights there giving us ample time to explore. The city was so laid back and dope. It had the hipster vibe without the pretentious assholes. We explored record shops, bookstores, and I even got the opportunity to go thrifting. We tried their famous Icelandic hot dog at the Bæjarins Beztu stand. Whats special about this hot dog is that it's made out of lamb. The first one we had was delicious but when we got to our third one we had enough. I close to barfing.

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Side note: I have a problem. i have the tendancy to overeat things I enjoy. The same thing happened the first time I tried fried dough. Ate 3 of them now I get nausous with the thought of it. Wish the same would happen with pizza...
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We later washed it down with Icelandic ice cream further out of the city. I was shivering the whole time but was well worth it. What made Raykvik even more appealing was finding a Haitian Cafe in the heart of the city! What are the odds! My first question (which I'm sure is pretty common) was how did a Haitian end up here? The owner was a Haitian woman that fell in love with her Icelandic husband. They both decided to settle in Iceland and built their lives there. I was filled with joy to see a Haitian cafe in such a distant and peculiar place like Iceland. I admittedly felt patriotic. Knowing how underrated Haiti is, it was great to see one of my people sharing one of the best things about Haiti, its cuisine. 

Overall, my trips to Iceland have been fricken awesome! I honestly can not wait to go back. Everything about Iceland is phenomenal! I cannot think of one negative thing to say about Iceland other than, like most European countries, breakfast isn't a thing. That to me isn't as important as the experiences you get to consume. Most people would assume my favorite place in Iceland was the Blue Lagoon. Although its one of the Wonders of the World it didn't move me the way Skogafoss did. Don't get me wrong the Blue Lagoon was great but it was no Skogafoss.

Skgoafoss had me thinking about how insignificant yet significant we really are. Skogafoss made me feel a huge sense of gratitude for the things that mattered. Skogafoss made me feel at peace. True, genuine peace. Something that is hard to obtain in our crazy world. I forgot about everything. Until I find another place that electrifies me the way Skogafoss did, it will forever be my favorite location. My happy place.  

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