Having traveled less since the baby, we're reminiscing on past trips we never shared...i.e. Iceland! We got a few messages about our trip last winter, so here we go!
We’d originally planned this as our anniversary trip & it was supposed to be to St. Martin however the devastation from the hurricanes us left many hotels to rebuild and ultimately temporarily close including the one we'd booked. My husband asked if I trusted his decision on an alternative game plan & with that he booked Newark to Keflavík International Airport; we were headed to Iceland!
We used to talk about wanting to go but decided we would head there after going somewhere warm (we always seem to travel in the winter...to somewhere equally as cold). Between the devastation and finding out we were expecting a little one, warm weather options were limited (Zika risk) so he went all in with Iceland! Looking back, I could not have been happier, what a beautiful and unique country.
Flying out of Newark is nowhere near as convenient as Philly however it has its perks! Flights are typically cheaper & you have so many more direct options. We chose to fly WOW and as expected, it was your typical money saving airline. However, I would suggest it time & time again. Flights are relatively cheap to Iceland which is great; but be ready to spend while there, it’s an expensive country but worth every bit!
When planning, we chose to do our own thing, rent a car and tour the island at our leisure, although this trip was far from relaxing. Every night was a different hotel & town; I wouldn’t change a thing about our itinerary & hopping around!
We landed early, we’re talking 5:30am early, (always do a red eye from the east coast to Europe...ALWAYS) grabbed our rental and we were on our way. We had about a 2 hour drive to our first hotel and as expected it was pitch black with a chill that would take your breath away. We arrived to Hotel Ranga at about 8am and although our room wasn’t ready, we were welcomed into their dining room to enjoy breakfast. The dining room had floor to ceiling windows but still not a single sign of the sun. After breakfast our room was ready and we snuck in a quick nap. 10am...still no sun. It’s incredibly difficult to get up but you have to, between battling jet lag and trying to adjust to only 4-6 hours of daylight during this time you just have to get up & go!
With only one full day in this region of the country we got dressed (in many layers!) and headed out in search of Skogafoss Waterfall & anything notable along the way. The falls are only about 40 minutes from the hotel, by the time we arrived the sun was starting to come up and we were able to explore. Skogafoss is incredible, just off of the main road and surprisingly not crowded.
We took it all in from the base but I felt like we were cheating ourselves if we didn’t at least make the attempt on the hundreds of rickety steps to the top. Icy & narrow, the steps weren’t easy to navigate but we (after a few stops prompted by the bump!) made it to the top.
As expected, completely worth it! If you find yourself on a tour with a stop at Skogafoss or you plan to go yourself...climb the stairs. Your photos will be amazing and you will thank yourself...your legs however will not thank you! Starving, we got trapped into the touristy cafe at the base of the falls. We don’t typically like to do that but one, we were starving and two, in such a remote country, you can’t bank on just stumbling across something.
Back at the hotel, we (ie my husband) enjoyed the champagne amenity provided from the hotel to celebrate our anniversary in the outdoor hot tub. I enjoyed the chocolates & captured some snaps of him relaxing! Showered and ready, we went to the bar to warm up before sitting down to dinner. Mind you at this point it felt like midnight, the sun had started to set on our drive back to the hotel so it had been dark for hours by the time our 8:30 dinner came around. We ordered drinks and then dove right into our appetizers. We ordered the scallops & the mushroom soup which was unlike anything we've ever tasted. I can still vividly remember the immense mushroom smell as the waitress crossed the dining room. We knew it was going to be good, but had no idea it would be as delicious as it was - we would HIGHLY recommend ordering the soup if you find yourself at Hotel Ranga...hopefully it's still on the menu! For the main course we ordered the Icelandic lamb and the beef. Both dishes were unbelievable.
Each night guests can opt to have the staff call the room in the middle of the night should they see the northern lights so naturally we requested they call. Before we headed to bed for the night we bundled up in suits provided by the hotel and went out to the astronomy building about 100 yards away from the hotel. The roof can be removed and inside there are a handful of telescopes. Every few nights an astronomer from Reykjavik comes to educate guests on the various constellations, planets & galaxies. The clarity of the night allowed for quite the show. There were more stars in the sky than darkness, it was like nothing we’d ever seen before. It was well worth the chill & late night after being on the go since we left Newark.
Another long day ahead of us, we got back to our room & right to bed.